The Blackhawks were coming off of a 103-point season, which was good for 3rd in the Central and Patrick Kane was coming off his first-ever Hart Trophy.
Unfortunately, the Hawks weren't happy; they lost in 7 games to the St. Louis Blues in the 1st round.
This was not for lack of effort from the players or from the GM, Stan Bowman. The team just didn't seem to gel even with re-acquiring a guy like Andrew Ladd.
As the calendar turned over to 2016, Bowman was a busy man:
It started with dumping Jeremy Morin for Richard Panik – a trade that worked out significantly better for the Hawks than the Leafs.
Then, he continued to attempt to rectify the terrible CHI/DAL trade that saw fan favourite Patrick Sharp leave town. Bowman moved out Ryan Garbutt, a player acquired in that trade (Trevor Daley was moved just a month prior).
Then at the deadline, Stan pulled the trigger on some trades that in retrospect, didn't pan out.
As I mentioned, Ladd didn't seem to fit as well as when he was here in his first stint and I'm not even going to get into one of Bowman's worst trades with MTL sending one of my favourite prospects Philip Danault (and a 2nd rounder) for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischman.
You can't fault Bowman for going for it but moves like these just made that 1st round loss even worse. Not to mention that the Hawks sent their 1st rounder to WIN in that Ladd trade.
So, how many picks did the Hawks have and how did they fare in 2016?
Well, after Bowman shipped out another fan favourite Andrew Shaw due to his contract demands/Hawks not having any money, Stan was able to get his 2nd round total up to 3 picks for his team.
They took – what looks to be a perennial 40-goal scorer in Alex DeBrincat. "He's too small," they all thought. Jokes on you 30 other teams.
Chad Krys and Artur Kayumov were the other 2nd rounders on there and both still have potential with the Blackhawks.
How did Round 1 and 2 look for everyone else?
Ahhh, the Matthews/Laine debate continues… or does it?
Looking at these first couple of rounds, what's apparent to me is how much this is a young man's game now.
Look at the talent and the level these 2016 draft picks are performing at:
Matthews – 205 points in 212 games
Laine – 184 points in 237 games
Dubois – 109 points in 164 games
Tkachuk – 174 points in 224 games
Keller – 114 points in 167 games
DeBrincat – 128 points in 164 games
It's crazy to see how effective younger players can be in an immediate way. The Hawks are hoping that trend continues when they select a special player at #3.
Their 3rd overall may not play next year but could be an impactful player as soon as 2020-21.
Stepping back to 2016 for a second, how did Bowman, Kelley and the rest of the Blackhawks scouts perform in this draft? Well, that's really difficult to tell at this point.
The DeBrincat selection makes them look genius.
Chad Krys is lost in the shuffle on the backend after the "4 Horsemen" but could take some strides this season in Rockford. Keep an eye on him.
Kayumov is a wild card. There is talk that he comes over to North America for the 2020-21 season. At this point – unless he has a monster season in the KHL – he would be starting in Rockford. His future will all depend on how he adjusts there.
Wouter Peeters is fading from the scene on the Hawks goaltending depth charts and, while I'm not a scout, I don't see much of a future for him with the organization. Hey, it was worth a shot at drafting a 6'4 /220 lbs goalie when, at the time, the Hawks were starving for depth in the position.
Lucas Carlsson is one that I am still really high on. He's been compared to the "closest thing to Nik Hjarlmarsson." So, it's hard not to like that. While I don't think he's the exact same style, Carlsson has nice 2-way potential and had a great 1st season in North America being named as Rockford's top defender of 2018-19.
After that, there is pesky Nathan Noel who is most likely tops out as an AHLer.
Mathias From is still in the system but is playing in the 2nd tier Swedish league and isn't looking like he'll be a player for Chicago.
Blake Hillman still has value in Chicago and will look to hone his game in Rockford while he waits for his buddy and former D partner Ian Mitchell to make the jump to pro.
Jake Ryczek made the switch to the QMJHL from the NCAA and played on Halifax's Memorial Cup team this past spring. He registered 13 assists in 23 playoff games but looks like he's got too many defencemen ahead of him to stay with the organization.
So, while it's hard to judge, the 2016 draft might turn out to be a solid one, even if it's "just" DeBrincat, Krys and Carlsson who end up being NHLers for this team or with another organization.
Now, on to the fun part, the awards:
Best Value Pick
– Alex DeBrincat (CHI), 39th overall... #DUH
– Olli Juolevi (VAN), 5th overall – now I will preface this by saying that Juolevi can still become a real nice player but due to his injuries he's been slow to crack the NHL. The real reason I put this pick on here was due to the defenders taken after him: Sergachev, McAvoy, Chychrun.
"Oh Hey, I Forgot About Him" Pick
– Kieffer Bellows (NYI), 19th – once a World Juniors star, Bellows hasn't yet cracked the NHL. He had just 19 points in 73 AHL games last year.
That's it, folks. 2016 is the last year I'm covering. I will have my final rankings in a follow-up blog.
See ya out there,