07/08/2014 2:04 PM - Mike Peck

We’re hitting mid-July and if the Blackhawks/IceHogs don’t sign another player, Rockford’s potential roster stands at 27 players for the 2014-15 season.

The first thing to remember, rosters aren’t made in July or August, but in training camp and sometimes in the AHL, after training camp.

Of the 27 potential skaters, three or four could/should make the Blackhawks out of training camp. Here is a breakdown of possible newcomers and returnees:

Possible Newcomers-Forward (5):

Cody Bass, Matt Carey, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Dennis Rasmussen, Ryan Schnell

Possible Returnees-Forward (10):

Alex Broadhurst, Phillip Danault, Ryan Hartman, Drew LeBlanc, Brandon Mashinter, Mark McNeill, Jeremy Morin, Joakim Nordstrom, Garret Ross, Teuvo Teravainen

Forward Thoughts:
With the trade of Brandon Bollig, there is a need for some toughness on Chicago’s roster. So of the 15 listed skaters, at least one will probably get the opportunity to fill that void. Candidates include Bass, Labrie and Mashinter. Schnell is a tough guy, but he is under an AHL contract and isn’t eligible to make the Hawks roster.

Chicago currently has 12 “sure thing” forwards on their roster meaning there is an opening for probably two spots in 2014-15 barring injury in camp. Morin and Nordstrom are considered front runners with Teravainen close behind. One that I’m intrigued by is Rasmussen, who signed as a free agent in May by the Blackhawks. If he doesn’t make Chicago’s roster out of camp, he could be an impact player in Rockford.

Possible Newcomers-Defensemen (4)
Kyle Cumiskey, Dillon Fournier, Zach Miskovic, Trevor van Riemsdyk

Possible Returnees-Defensemen (5)
Mathieu Brisebois, Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck, Stephen Johns, Viktor Svedberg

Defensive Thoughts:
It looks like there will be a spot open in Chicago on the blueline come training camp, meaning the above listed d-men will be battling for the spot. Cumiskey has some NHL experience and played for Joel Quinneville in Colorado, so he is a for sure candidate.  Dahlbeck continued his progression last season and has become a solid two-way defenseman at the AHL level and looks to have an NHL future ahead of him.

With the signing of Cumiskey, it might bump Clendening down a notch since they are similar defenseman, minus the NHL experience for Clendening. But he should be on the list as a possibility. One to keep an eye on, similar to Rasmussen up front, is Johns. I loved the way his game translated to the pro level last season in his eight games with Rockford.  He has size, he’s physical and has some offense. He could be a future star in the NHL but he is a little green right now.

Local Angle
A story line to get used to this season is the amount of local players that will be on Rockford’s roster. It looks like there could be up to five Illinois natives (all within 90 miles of Rockford) on the Hogs including Broadhurst (Orland Park), Hartman (West Dundee), Schnell (Cary), Miskovic (River Forest) and goalie Scott Darling (Lemont).  Overall, there could be 11 Americans on the IceHogs  roster come Opening Night.

Final Draft Thoughts
One thing that I won’t do is grade a draft, not for at least four, five or six years anyways!  I think the Blackhawks picked some really intriguing players though.  Odds are, a team will hit on more first, second and third round picks, but it’s always fun to watch the late round picks emerge.

Chicago has had great success in recent history in the later rounds with the likes of Andrew Shaw (5th), Marcus Kruger (5th), Ben Smith (6th), Troy Brouwer (7th) and Dustin Byfuglien (8th).

The Hawks had two fifth round picks in this year’s draft and they chose defenseman Luc Snuggerud with their first pick. Snuggerud is an offensive defenseman and was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award as senior at Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota. That is the same school, by the way, that Blackhawks d-man Nick Leddy attended.

Another interesting pick was the Blackhawks sixth round selection where they picked 6-5 Russian goalie Ivan Nalimov.  I never heard of him before the draft and he could end up being just a random on Chicago’s draft board. But he has good size and he had some impressive streaks as a 19-year-old last season playing in and for his home country in some International tournaments.

You can never have enough goaltenders and if Nalimov and the Blackhawks are a fit, he could become the first player from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to end up in Rockford.

And what U.S.A. hockey fan doesn’t like the 1980 Olympic hockey team? Well Chicago picked Jack Ramsey with their final selection in the seventh round, the son of Mike Ramsey, who played on the Miracle on Ice team in 1980. Jack will begin his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2015.


06/04/2014 12:10 PM - Mike Peck

If you’re a sports fan and like player drafts, this is probably your favorite time of year. The NFL had their draft back in May and June features drafts for the other three major leagues, culminating with the NHL Entry Draft on June 27 and 28 in Philadelphia.

Strategies in drafting players is much different in the four sports as in hockey and baseball, there is development systems in place as players usually don’t make immediate impacts for the major league clubs for up to four or five years after getting drafted.  While in football and basketball, teams can fill holes in their roster and address immediate needs with the draft.

Focusing on hockey, what makes a successful draft? It’s a question that can be viewed a couple different ways as each team is in a different place from a roster standpoint.  The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, can continue to re-stock the organization and take the best player on the board when they pick in the 27th spot in this summer’s draft.

But a team like the Florida Panthers or Buffalo Sabres, who pick one and two respectively, can strive for an immediate impact player who can contribute right away. Maybe try to fill an immediate need. Nathan MacKinnon was the top pick in last June’s draft by the Colorado Avalanche and led all rookies with 63 points while playing in all 82 games, so a top 10 pick can make a quick impact.

Again, however, a first round pick doesn’t translate into immediate help in the NHL. Of the 30 first round selections last June, just eight of them (or 26.7%) played a game in the NHL last season and no player picked outside the top 10 played more than seven games.

So back to the original question, what makes a draft class successful? Is it quantity or quality? My answer is both. It’s unlikely a team will get both quality and quantity (although a recent Blackhawks draft class might just do that), but both can turn the fortunes of a franchise.

Luck, of course, plays a big role into this. Having the first overall pick doesn’t guarantee stardom. For every Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Kane, there is a rare chance you get a Patrik Stefan or Alexandre Daigle. Make no mistake, you are probably getting a franchise cornerstone with the top pick, but nothing is guaranteed.

Speaking of Kane, he was the top pick overall in the draft of 2007 by the Blackhawks. In seven seasons, you’d have a hard time arguing that Patrick Kane is not a hall-of-fame hockey player. So, on the surface the 2007 draft for Chicago should be an “A+” draft, correct? But did it have quantity or depth?

Kane was one of seven players chosen in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, but was the only player, and will more than likely be the only player, to play for the Blackhawks. As a matter of fact, Bill Sweat (2 games) and Akim Aliu (7 games) are the only other two players to skate in the show from that draft for Chicago. The other four draftees in the Kane class of ’07 include centers Maxime Tanguay and Richard Greenop, goalie Josh Unice and defenseman Joe Lavin.

So was the draft a failure?  I think any team in the NHL would sacrifice a draft class for a Patrick Kane caliber player, so the ’07 draft was a franchise changer for the Blackhawks and was a success.

The 2006 draft was no different for Chicago as they picked Jonathan Toews third overall in the first round while the eight other selections never reached Chicago with just one other player (Peter LeBlanc, one game with the Washington Capitals) playing a game in the NHL.

The point is, hockey teams are like shopping malls. They need anchors or cornerstones. The Blackhawks hit on their two top end of the draft selections in 2006 and 2007 with Toews and Kane and set the organization up for a golden era.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a successful team in the Blackhawks position can also hit on quantity in the draft. At least in the modern era of the NHL, the 2011 draft could end up being one of the most successful in franchise history for Chicago and that’s with first round selections Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault still developing in Rockford.

Consider the draft has already yielded impact players Brandon Saad (2nd round pick) and Andrew Shaw (5th round pick) for the Blackhawks. Plus throw in two solid prospects in McNeill and Danault, probably two of the organizations top three defenseman prospects in Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck, along with forward Alex Broadhurst and the 2011 draft could be one of the most fruitful for Chicago.

The 2004 draft might compare to the 2011 class as Chicago selected Cam Barker, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Adam Berti, Jake Dowell, Petri Kontiola and Troy Brouwer, all of whom spent time with the Blackhawks, three winning Stanley Cups.

From a percentage standpoint, dating back to the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, the highest percentage of players from a single draft to make it to the NHL is 48.3%, occurring from both the 2008 and 2005 drafts according to  The average is around 43.0%, meaning not even half of the players chosen in the draft will even make it to the NHL.

So when picking 27th in this June’s draft, chances are the Blackhawks will get a player that won’t be NHL ready for a couple of years.  But in the era of the salary cap and free agency, it’s crucial for teams to restock from within. Of the 25 active players on the Blackhawks final roster in 2014, 14 of them were either drafted or signed as a rookie free agent after the draft by Chicago. Mix in the trade acquisitions of Kris Versteeg (in 2006), Jeremy Morin and Nick Leddy while they were either still amateurs or pre-NHL, and 17 of the 24 players came up through the Blackhawks system.

One thing that Chicago has done well dating back to the 2001 draft, is finding players in the first round that contribute at the top level. Of the nine first round selections between 2001 and 2009, eight of them have played in the NHL.

Stayed tuned to the week of the draft as we’ll break down and preview the event beginning on Monday, June 23, leading up to the first round on Thursday, June 27.