Yes, yesterday, Dale Tallon continued his stockpiling of draft picks in exchange for the Hawks' wretched refuse, picking up a 7th round pick from Florida for Magnus Johansson.
Last night I watched tape of the Hawks' AHL farm team, the Western Division leading Rockford Ice Hogs, playing the Lake Erie Monsters. The Hogs' talent has basically been bled dry by the Hawks, filling in their roster with Rockford's best players due to a series of injuries.
Still, the best player on the ice in that game, by a very wide margin, was Petri Kontiola, a 7th round draft choice of the Blackhawks. Kontiola has all the earmarks of a future second or third line NHL center, if not with the Hawks, then somewhere.
Do you see where I'm going here?
Now, while Tallon could nab another Kontiola or a Dustin Byfuglien (8th round selection), he could more easily draft a skinny Russian winger who will never see the shores of North America, or a brawler from Saskatoon, who will remain a brawler. In Saskatoon.
But, hockey and baseball in particular, are two sports where scouting and drafting well can unearth major, major finds. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were both later round selections of the Red Wings.
It's almost like a futures lottery. Unlike football or basketball, where a kid you draft at 19 or 20 will be on your roster the following season, typically hockey and baseball prospects are 3-5 years away from playing at the major league level. A lot can happen in that time. They mature. Their games change. They lose babyfat. Mark Buehrle, arguably one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball, was a 36th round choice of the White Sox. 36th round.
The Ice Hogs are possibly the youngest team in the AHL, yet they are clearly a superior club. But they don't rely on a lot of 28 year-old career AHL'ers like the Chicago Wolves do, for example. Their competitive core is comprised of a lot of kids Dale Tallon drafted in rounds 2 through 7, or found as free agents.
From this cauldron of competition, we've observed the emergence of Byfuglien, who clearly has an as yet undetermined role as a difference making NHL player. Kris Versteeg, a 5th round pick of Boston, has been a nice pleasant surprise and looks completely ready to compete in the NHL. Jake Dowell (a late draft pick) appears ready to play third and fourth line minutes in the NHL. And there's Kontiola. That's a lot of maturation out of your farm system in one season. A lot.
"With the 227th selection in the 2008 NHL draft, the Chicago Blackhawks
select . . ."
The suspense is killing me.