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Rebuild Report: Hit or Miss? The Blackhawks 2015 Draft

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The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have a lot of first round picks in the 2010’s. Many were dealt away to get players that could put them over the top for the chance at winning a Stanley Cup.

The gamble worked at times. But with the highest hit rate of talent being in the first round, how did the Blackhawks fare outside of it. Starting today, Chicago Hockey Now will start with the 2015 Draft, looking at how the foundation was either helped or hampered by the lack of draft choices making it to the big club.

To set the stage, the graph below comes from the well written Dobber Prospects piece  that focuses on the success of draft picks by round in the draft.  This is where our story starts.

Photo from Dobber Prospects – 5/16/20 article by Jokke Nevalainen

Chicago Blackhawks 2015 Draft Primer

The Blackhawks were coming off their third Stanley Cup title in six years. Heading into the Draft, they were lacking their first round pick because of a trade with Arizona that netted Antoine Vermette. That trade worked out beautifully with Chicago surrendering what would be the final pick of the draft for a scorer who had three game winning goals in the playoffs.

This would be one of several seasons in this study where Chicago would surrender its first round pick.

Here’s a look at each player they took, how many games they played for Chicago, and a quick thought on whether it was a hit or miss. A hit is considered a player who played at least 100 games in the league and made a noticeable impact. An example: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw, or Corey Crawford are examples of that. They also need to be drafted by the Chicago. Obvious, yes, but still needs to be stated.

54th overall pick (2nd round) – Graham Knott (LW)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Knott never made it out of Rockford, with the rest of his career in North America going between the East Coast Hockey League and the AHL. Knott is still in hockey, playing in the Austrian League where he had 17 goals and 38 points last season.

91st overall pick (3rd round) – Dennis Gilbert (D)
Hit or Miss? Miss-ish

Gilbert made it to the Blackhawks–he had a cup of coffee in 2018-19 and then played 21 games during the 2019-20 season. He was traded to the Colorado Avalanche with Brandon Saad in the deal that brought Anton Lindholm and Nikita Zadarov over. The drafting of him, though, brought in the value to get Zadarov out of the deal who was solid for the Blackhawks. Gilbert played 23 games for the Calgary Flames this season so out of all of the 2015 picks, he’s had the longest career.

121st overall pick (4th round) – Ryan Shea (D)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Shea never made it to the big club and ended up signing his entry-level deal with the Dallas Stars when his rights expired with the Blackhawks. His latest season was with the Texas Stars.

151st overall pick (5th round) – Radovan Bondra (RW)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Only playing a handful of games with Rockford, Bondra bounced around in the ECHL before going overseas to play in the Slovak and Czech leagues. He had 28 points in 40 games with Zvolen HKm in the Slovak League.

164th overall pick (6th round) – Roy Radke (RW)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Radke last played in 2018-19. He never signed with Chicago or made it in North American hockey outside of the Ontario Hockey League.

181st overall pick (6th round) – Joni Tuulola (D)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Tuulola played 110 games with Rockford, but couldn’t stick with them or anywhere else in the league. He went overseas to play in SM-liiga and finished his second season with Tappara registering nine points in 47 games.

211th overall pick (7th round) – John Dahlstrom (RW)
Hit or Miss? Miss

Outside of the 2016-17 where he played with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, Dahlstrom played exclusively overseas.

2015 Draft By The Numbers and Final Thoughts

  • Hit Percentage (out of 7 picks): 0%
  • Number of total NHL games played with Chicago: 22
  • Number of total NHL games excluding Chicago: 26
  • Total Cumulative NHL games: 48

In short, it’s a poor job drafting. But following the euphoria of winning another Stanley Cup, few were really paying attention. There’s those who play the game of hindsight and point to the players they missed in later rounds. It’s unfair. As many executives have pointed out, if they were so good, they would have gone in earlier rounds. Some is luck. Much is development.

Using the image above, it’s tough as hell to find talent that will make it a the NHL level let alone playing more than 99 games in the league.

But a 0% hit in a draft, from what we’re looking at, hurts the foundation of a team and also a few of those can set an organization back years. Winning teams are going to sacrifice high draft picks to acquire talent that can push them over the top. But they have to supplement it with talent that can help later on, while being wise in free agency and making sound trades.

It’s then that they have to at least get a couple players they can use. Of the seven picks they made, only Gilbert played in the NHL and gave the Blackhawks a bit of value, which came to pass through a trade.

Not a hit, but close.

2016’s draft would though. A massive one by the name of Alex DeBrincat.