Let’s rip this band-aid off up top: The Chicago Blackhawks are in a terrible position right now, rebuilding (again) after a horrible season, and it’s not that difficult to understand how they got here: The Draft.
Setting aside the most recent slate of picks, the Blackhawks have simply not drafted well over the past half-decade or so. And even when they did make some apparently wise picks, those players often didn’t make enough of an impact on the Blackhawks’ NHL roster to justify their selection, or — in many cases — the trade in which they left the organization.
I bring that up now, because today is August 15, the date by which every organization needs to sign their college draft picks who completed their collegiate careers. For example, Joshua Ess, who played five years at Wisconsin, will see his rights lapse today.
And that provides enough of a reason to look back at his draft class (2017) and those surrounding it to remember just how poorly Stan Bowman’s regime drafted.
Between 2014-17 the Chicago Blackhawks drafted 34 players. That’s an average of almost nine players per draft class.
Of those 34 players, only three — Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat and Henri Jokiharju — have appeared in more than 100 regular season games in the NHL. And, in the cases of Schmaltz and Jokiharju, the majority of their NHL careers have been spent in Arizona and Buffalo, respectively.
What’s worse: only four players from those 34 are still under contract with the NHL club: Ian Mitchell, Evan Barratt and Jakub Galvas haven’t left. Dylan Sikura, a sixth-round pick in 2014, is back with the club on a two-way deal this year.
Mitchell and Galvas have both seen action in the NHL and looked good at times. But they have 53 games on their combined NHL resumes at this time; Barratt hasn’t appeared in an NHL game yet. And all three are entering the finals years of their respective contracts. Sikura has 58 NHL games to his credit.
If we play this forward through the 2018 draft class in which the Blackhawks selected eight more players, the root to the downfall of the Blackhawks becomes more clear. Two players from that draft class have appeared in 100 regular season games in the NHL and one of them, Adam Boqvist, is gone.
The Blackhawks still control the rights of four of the eight players they selected in 2018: Nicolas Beaudin, Jake Wise (still in college), Philipp Kurashev (the second player with 100 games on his hockey card) and Josiah Slavin. Beaudin and Slavin are in the final years of their entry-level contracts and Kurashev just signed a one-year extension with the Blackhawks.
So, in total, the Blackhawks selected 42 players over five drafts and only four have appeared in at least 100 NHL games to date. And the Blackhawks still control the rights of only eight of those 42 players.
These drafts are the ones that should be filling out some part of the NHL roster this coming season, but only two of those 42 appear likely to be in Chicago: Mitchell and Kurashev (plus maybe Sikura). They simply need to do better.