Young guns

The Chicago Blackhawks are living proof that there is upside to long-term ineptitude and utter failure that doesn’t exist with sporadic garden variety mediocrity.

One look at the roster Chicago will dress against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Tuesday tells you that much. Is there another team in the NHL with more young talent — players 25-and-under — than the Blackhawks? I think not, although that’s just off the top of my head.

Out of the playoffs, often hopelessly so, for nine of the previous 10 seasons, Chicago has rebuilt through the Entry Draft from 2002-07 better than any other team I can think of.

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In six drafts, the Blackhawks have added no less than seven players who are on the roster and contributing to a resurgence in the Windy City.

Finish low

While the Oilers made the playoffs in six of the previous 10 seasons, and just missed in three of the other four years, the Blackhawks were dismal enough that they amassed three, top-five picks from 2002-07.

The Oilers, meanwhile, had none — Edmonton’s highest pick in that stretch came in 2007, when they plucked Sam Gagner sixth overall.

After years as an embarrassment to Original Six franchises and of playing in a half-empty United Center, the Blackhawks have drafted high and drafted well. Here’s a look at the youngsters who’ll be in Chicago silks Tuesday.

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Pick high

2007: PATRICK KANE. Taken first overall, Kane, 20, leads the Blackhawks in scoring with 13-21-34. He tallied 21-51-72 as a rookie. The Oilers selected Gagner, a teammate of Kane’s in London, sixth, Alex Plante 15th and Riley Nash 21st with a trifecta of first-round picks.

2006: JONATHAN TOEWS. Selected third overall, Toews, 20, scored 24-30-54 as a rookie. He has 8-15-23 this season. The Oilers didn’t have a first-round pick, although they have blueliners Jeff Petry (45th) and Theo Peckham (75th) in the system.

2005:  JACK SKILLE:  This promising forward from the U.S. National Under-18 team is the only Chicago first-rounder from 2002-07 yet to make a real impact. He’s got six NHL games on his resume and is in Rockford of the AHL. A big edge to the Oilers so far, with Andrew Cogliano in The Show and Taylor Chorney on the way.

2004: CAM BARKER  and DAVE BOLLAND. Chicago took Barker, a 22-year-old defenceman from Medicine Hat, with the third overall pick. He’s already played parts of four seasons. Bolland, 22, was taken 32nd overall. He’s scored 5-12-17 in 28 games this season. The Oilers just sent Rob Schremp (25th) back to Springfield and fellow first-rounder Devan Dubnyk (14th) is in the system. Liam Reddox (112th) is on the roster.

2003: BRENT SEABROOK AND DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN. The 23-year-old Seabrook, selected 14th from Lethbridge of the WHL, already has 240 games on his NHL resume and is in his fourth season. Seabrook was a no-brainer at the draft.

Byfuglien, 23, meanwhile, is the longest of shots and is paying off. Selected 245th overall, the massive swingman scored 19 goals last season and has 126 NHL games in the books. The Oilers took Marc Pouliot 22nd overall and got Zack Stortini 94th.

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2002: DUNCAN KEITH. After taking Anton Babchuk 21st, Keith was a steal at 54th overall. Keith has scored 2-12-14 so far in his fourth NHL campaign after back-to-back seasons of 31 and 32 points. The Blackhawks also got James Wisniewski with the 156th pick.

Jesse Niinimaki was Edmonton’s biggest first-round bust in recent years, but they also got Jeff Deslauriers along with Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, who they’ve turned into Lubomir Visnovsky via trade.


  • nary a kurri

    That's a good article, but a great bio.

    Too bad about Schremp's demotion, I'd say. Do you think he'll ever get a long look with the Oil, or do you agree with many other pundits that he'll be packaged up and traded away by the end of the season?

  • nary a kurri

    Despite the risk, it seems to make better sense to send Deslauriers down to the Falcons where he'll have the chance to play some more. It's not doing his already stunted development any good to sit around in the NHL without playing, and I'm not convinced he's ready for The Show anyway. With his mediocre stats, do you think that there's a significant risk that he'd be picked up through waivers if he's sent down?

  • Jason Gregor

    @ nary a kurri:
    What do you mean mediocre stats? He is 3-2, 2.73 GAA and .915 save %.

    His save % is better than the likes of Nabokov, Giguere, Vokoun, Ward, Huet, Miller, Fleury and Budaj to name a few.

    Deslauriers is practicing against NHL shots every day, and don't be surprised to see him play soon. Is is ideal, but lots of teams would jump at the chance to pick him up for nothing. It makes absolutely no sense to risk it now.

  • RobinB

    @ nary a kurri:
    Mediocre stats? You're kidding, right?

    No way Deslauriers clears waivers. Look, he's hung in through some difficult seasons when the Oilers didn't even have their own AHL team for him to play on and he gutted it out.
    The situation now is less than ideal, but you're going to fold your cards on the kid? Give him some credit.

  • R-DAWG

    we just need to ride out this season and with all likelyhood we will see Garon not resign, and my guess is that Roli will sign as a back-up which leaves J.D. where he should be and thats #1

  • Leonard

    Hey RobinB. Didn't I tell you 5 days ago that Mc T. was going to send Shremp down in a couple of days. That was his good, long look just to prove averybody stupid and him smart. For whatever reason he killed the kid and he did it with approval of management i.e., like it or not, Kevin Lowe. You can deny it as much as you want and protect them but sooner people realise that this management is not going to do anything for the Oilers better it would be.

  • Kinda crazy to see how they drafted and how we did. A little sad on our part. Reading this made me a little jealous but I couldn't stand being that crappy for so many years. Glad to see the resurgence in Chicago. They really haven't been all that good since Roenick left. (and that was with the dinosaurs)

    Go Oil tomorrow!

  • RobinB

    @ Leonard:
    Get a grip. I'm not the least bit interested in "protecting" anybody in Oilers management.

    So what if you guessed right about Schremp being sent down? That was one of several likely scenarios, but you talk like you've got some inside knowledge on why it was done and the motives involved. Right.

  • David S

    Hmmm…5 days ago Schremp was back to playing like uhh Schremp. Slow feet and no grit. Totally outclassed in San Jose and gets little or no time the next two games. Seeing as he's obviously going to be sent down, lets make it look I'm a sooth sayer by stating the obvious and blaming it on MacT at the same time. Then I'll look like a playa when it all goes down.

    Nice one soopa-stah.

  • nary a kurri

    Okay, my obvious mistake in calling Deslauriers stats mediocre notwithstanding, is there a real threat to loose him through the waiver wire if he was sent down? My line of reasoning is simply that he needs to play in actual games, which he's not doing lately. Furthermore, until there's a trade, it seems unlikely that he's going to get a lot of playing time.

    This is by no means giving up on him, as he's shown a lot of patience and loyalty to the organization since being drafted. I'm just not sure how sitting in the press box and on the bench is going to help him develop. He deserves better.

  • Leonard

    RobinB. I am not insider and I don't have any inside info, just 27 years of watching hockey, and it was clear to me. I know that you love Oilers and want to help them. One of the ways to help is this site. You should understand and make it clear to everybody that this management is not the right one for the team and the team need change of management. I just used Schremp as an exemple because he is not important and if he is realy not good for the team then so be it. But there are many others, like Deslauriers, who are not playing, the stupid draft picks, ideotic trades. You know about it better then I do but you did not make the right conclusions. Use this site to get change.

  • Chicago has rebuilt through the Entry Draft from 2002-07 better than any other team I can think of.

    Pittsburgh? Whitney, Christensen, Talbot, Fleury, Carcillo, Malkin, Kennedy, Crosby, Letang, Staal have all had an impact from the 2002-07 drafts, and a bunch of other guys have had cups of coffee, or were used as trade-bait (the rapidly imploding Angelo Esposito being the most obvious case).

    Of course, Pittsburgh was even worse on the ice than Chicago was, but they racked up some talent in that five year span.

  • Leonard wrote:

    You should understand and make it clear to everybody that this management is not the right one for the team and the team need change of management.

    Personally, I prefer it when journalists use a little discretion with their soapbox. There's a place for analysis, and for opinion, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that for a connected guy like Brownlee, making sweeping statements ("this entrie management group is made up of idiots") is a good way to get unconnected fast.

    Besides which, the fact that the NHL system rewards gross incompetence should tell you that the Oilers track record has been mediocre, not grossly bad.

    Leonard wrote:

    But there are many others, like Deslauriers, who are not playing, the stupid draft picks, ideotic trades. You know about it better then I do but you did not make the right conclusions. Use this site to get change.

    The Oilers scouting staff under Kevin Lowe has done a good job. Given that the current chief scout only got the job in September 2007, it's a little early to hire someone else.

    Finally, Daryl Katz isn't running a democracy. OilersNation can say whatever it wants; Katz will make his own decisions, and so on down the line – and that's how it should be.

  • Also, 100 points to any commenter who:

    a) thinks the Oilers scouting staff is awful
    b) can name the three scouting heads who have served the position under Kevin Lowe
    c) can identify the ineligible player selected by the Oilers at the 2002 draft
    and
    d) can name four different Oilers amateur scouts

    Basically, my point is that the guys you hear brandishing their tomahawks and screaming for blood are generally the same guys who don't have a clue as to who is scouting, which players they picked, or what the average NHL team manages at the draft.

    It takes a good scouting staff to do as well as the Oilers have done with their picks. It doesn't take a good scouting staff to pick a Toews, Kane, Crosby or Malkin – any idiot with a THN draft preview could do as well with the first three picks.

  • RobinB

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Let's give them Robin Kovar (oops) of, as I recall, the Vancouver Giants, and they can guess the rest.

    Also, you're right about picking as high as Chicago has — if you tank it every year and can't get it right with a top 3 or top 5 pick, you really should find another line of work.

  • Ender the Dragon

    nary a kurri wrote:

    Okay, my obvious mistake in calling Deslauriers stats mediocre notwithstanding, is there a real threat to loose him through the waiver wire if he was sent down? My line of reasoning is simply that he needs to play in actual games, which he’s not doing lately. Furthermore, until there’s a trade, it seems unlikely that he’s going to get a lot of playing time.
    This is by no means giving up on him, as he’s shown a lot of patience and loyalty to the organization since being drafted. I’m just not sure how sitting in the press box and on the bench is going to help him develop. He deserves better.

    Edmonton's triple-threat in goal has been kept preety hush-hush; almost as tight-lipped a secret as Brian Burke relocating to Toronto (like, who knew?). It stands to reason, then, that teams heading into the Christmas break with goalie trouble would be likely to overlook a young goalie with a current NHL .915%; those teams would probably look to the more conventional routes, like trading some assets for the .919 Khabibulin at the bargain salary of 6.75M.