The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t in a prospect quandary entering the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
They’ve rarely been these past few seasons, thanks to solid drafts and the ensuing good player development. So if general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t get a first-rounder with an immediate NHL impact, he’s not that concerned.
The Blackhawks select 27th overall in the first round of the draft, which begins Friday night in Philadelphia. Bowman said he won’t rule out moving up or down in the draft order — after that first-round pick, the Blackhawks don’t select again until the third round. Whether the Blackhawks stay in their current drafting spot or move, Bowman said there are gem players to be found.
“It’s a decent draft; there are players we like,” he said. “We have a pretty good recent history of finding players who weren’t highly touted going in. We’re not picking early so not expecting that impact player to come in and play for or team. But if we do our job, we’ll find players throughout the draft.”
Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to find a late first-round pick that makes an impact, if not immediately, fairly quickly. Brandon Saad, selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, made the Blackhawks’ roster in his first training camp that fall and was a Calder Trophy candidate (for top NHL rookie) the following season, 2012-13. Andrew Shaw, a fifth-round selection in that 2011 draft, made a solid impact his rookie season and was hoisting a Stanley Cup in his sophomore one.
So, again, those make-a-quick-impact guys can be found. The Blackhawks just aren’t in dire need for them. First, there likely won’t be many spaces to play for on the 2014-15 team; and what openings there could be already have candidates ready to fill them. Jeremy Morin, who’s been honing his game with the Rockford IceHogs and Blackhawks since he was acquired in the summer of 2010, should get more of a chance this season. After him, there are several guys in Rockford on the cusp of joining the organization.
Bowman has favored drafting and developing to build a successful team since he joined the Blackhawks. Looking at the current roster, you see that. He’ll take the same approach again at this summer’s draft. If a player is ready now, great; if not, they’ve got the opportunity to develop in a strong system.
“Players we’re looking at this year, we’re OK with them not being on the doorstep because we have a pretty good pipeline we’ve been looking to build up. We’re open to taking players that may take development,” Bowman said. “We have some guys in the system who we’re pretty confident will be NHL players. When talking about the draft itself, especially where we’re picking, we’re not expecting a guy who will play on our team next year and that’s OK. Having those players develop through your system, that’s why we put a premium on draft picks.”