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One Minute Remaining: Draft Diamonds

Monday, 06.19.2006 / 11:41 AM / News
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One Minute Remaining: Draft Diamonds

Art Hampson, Richard Bayes, Andrew Culligan and Bob Tombari are names you won't find in Blackhawk statistics -- and you will have to look closely to locate Terry Caffery's stats. All were #1 draft picks between 1963 and 1967 for Chicago.

Caffery appeared in six games in the 1969-70 campaign and later played in eight games the next season for the Minnesota North Stars with nary a goal or assist.

The first gem for the Blackhawks in the draft came in 1968 with defenseman John Marks, Chicago's lone draft pick. Marks played 10 seasons, 657 games, for Chicago and held the team's consecutive game streak up until 1991 when it was eclipsed by Steve Larmer's mark of 884 (1982-93).

Today's NHL draft is a lot more sophisticated because of easier world wide travel and available Internet stats, which it easier to track both European and U.S. players.

While this year's crop of promising talent may not yield instant stars such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, Hawks general manager Dale Tallon feels confident that the #3 overall selection will give Chicago an outstanding choice for the near future.

Going over the Hawks' recent #1 draft picks, defenseman Cam Barker ('04) should have a strong shot at making the team this year. Brent Seabrook ('03) had a solid rookie campaign to lead the team's blue liners in points (5-27=32). While Anton Babchuk was the top choice in '02 and was traded, 2nd rounder Duncan Keith provided speed and led defensemen with 9 goals.

Coach Trent Yawney is counting on a healthy Tuomo Ruutu, who was #1 (9th overall) in 2001. Mark Bell recorded a career best this year (25-23=48) and was 2nd in scoring to Kyle Calder while playing in every game for the 3rd straight season. Bell was Chicago's #1 and 8th overall in the 1998 Draft.

The dependable Calder had his best season (26-33=59) and has proven to be better than his selection in the 5th round in 1997.

As I mentioned, a 1st rounder doesn't always prove to be the best when competing at the NHL level. Eric Daze came in the 4th round in 1993, which was part of a trade with Buffalo for goalie Dominik Hasek. In 10 seasons, despite recent back problems which have sidelined him, Daze has 226 goals to rank him 11th on the team's all-time list.

Other Hawk gems in the '80s included Hall of Famer and current assistant coach Denis Savard in round 1 in 1980 while linemate Steve Larmer was snatched in the 6th round and probably ranks as one of the greatest all-time steals. Larmer went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in '83 and has the 2nd longest consecutive game streak in NHL history (884) plus holds a host of other Hawk marks.

Also top draft producers in the 80s were Chicago's own Ed Olczyk (#1, '84), now TV color analyst; Troy Murray (3rd round, '84) now radio color analyst; and defenseman Dave Manson (#1, '85); plus Jeremy Roenick in '88.

The '70s, with the late Hawk GM Tommy Ivan and now senior VP Bob Pulford, saw the Hawks select 1st rounders Doug Wilson in ('77); Grant Mulvey ('74); Phil Russell ('72); Keith Brown ('79); Darcy Rota ('73); and Tim Higgins ('78); plus a memorable 10th rounder in Darryl Sutter. Sutter became captain, assistant coach and head coach after a nine-year playing career that was cut short by injuries. Sutter is now Calgary's GM.

Here's hoping that this year's draft will provide the Hawks with more diamonds in the rough!