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By: Mike Peck
Phillip Danault (left) and Mark McNeill (right) were both first round selections by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. (Photos by Jim Orlando)
06/18/2012 9:00 AM - Draft kicks off on Friday night in Pittsburgh

Rockford, Ill.- For 210 kids vying to accomplish their dream of playing in the National Hockey League, that dream will be one-step closer to reality this weekend when the NHL conducts its annual entry draft at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn.

All 30 NHL teams will participate in the seven-round draft that begins on Friday night with the first round starting at 6 p.m. Rounds two through seven will be on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.  Coverage of the draft will be on NBC Sports Network, TSN and the NHL Network.

Draft picks have served as the core of the Rockford IceHogs since the team joined the American Hockey League as the primary affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rockford became the top affiliate of the Blackhawks before the 2007-08 season and during that time, 141 different players have suited up and played for the IceHogs. Of those 141 players, 82 (58.2%) of them were drafted by an NHL team, including 41 (29.1%) by the Blackhawks.

Last season, 26 of the 41 (63.4%) players to suit up and play for Rockford were selected in the annual NHL Entry Draft, including 15 (36.6%) skaters who were chosen by the Blackhawks. So when watching this weekend’s draft, fans will be watching future IceHogs skaters walk across the stage.

But don’t expect too many, if any, players selected this weekend to don an IceHogs sweater during the 2012-13 season. In 2011-12, the IceHogs roster featured three players from the 2011 NHL Draft (Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw), the most from a draft occurring immediately before the following season.

To further break down last season’s IceHogs roster, relevant to the NHL Draft, it contained six players who were selected in the first round (Kyle Beach, Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill, Rostislav Olesz, Dylan Olsen and Philippe Paradis). Beach (2008), Danault (2011), McNeill (2011) and Olsen (2009) were the first rounders picked by Chicago.

There were also five second-round draft picks on the IceHogs ‘11-12 roster (Simon Danis-Pepin, Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Kent Simpson) with three of them (Danis-Pepin-2006, Simpson-2010 and Pirri-2009) getting selected by the Blackhawks.

The 26 drafted players from last season’s Rockford squad were selected by nine different teams, including two by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Chris DiDomenico-2007 and Hayes-2008).

In the modern day of the NHL salary cap, the draft remains a crucial factor in a team’s long term success. The likes of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Niklas Hjalmarsson were draft picks by Chicago, worked their way through Rockford and the AHL to become Stanley Cup Champions with the Blackhawks.

Other Chicago draft picks on the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship team include Adam Burish (2002) Patrick Kane (2007), Duncan Keith (2002), Brent Seabrook (2004) and Jonathan Toews (2006). Of the 26 players Stanley Cup roster, 10 (38.5%) of them were selected by Chicago in the NHL Draft.

Last season, of the 32 different players to suit up and play for the Blackhawks, 15 of them were drafted by the organization and developed in the system, including eight of which who played in Rockford.

Monday, June 18th:  Draft Breakdown
Tuesday, June 19th:  Mock Drafts
Wednesday, June 20th:  Breakdown of the Blackhawks first overall picks over the past 20 years
Thursday, June 21st:  A look at the first round draft picks who have played for Rockford
Friday, June 22nd:  An update on the progress of all of Chicago’s draft picks from the 2009-2010 draft

Season Tickets for 2012-13 Now on Sale: Season ticket packages for the IceHogs 14th season of professional hockey in Rockford, including sixth as the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are now on sale. Call (815) 847-6399 to reserve your seats or visit for more information.

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