Yesterday we talked about the changes to the NHL’s Draft Lottery, so today we are going to expand on that and talk about some of the biggest first round busts in Blackhawks history. The Hawks have had their fair share of recent success and luck in the first round. They were lucky that both the St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins passed on Jonathan Toews in 2006 (don’t bother to look at the rest of the draft class) and were fortunate to have the first overall pick the following summer to grab Patrick Kane. But, they have had quite a few strike outs to go along with the home runs over the years.
Obviously this list will be on the objective side because it all depends on what you consider a bust. I factor in where the player was picked, who he was taken over and if his NHL production met the expectations of that particular draft slot.
We are going to start this look back at busts in chronological order which takes us back to the Amateur Draft of 1971. The Blackhawks took a young forward by the name of Dan Spring who put up 122 points (43 G, 79A) for the Edmonton Wheat Kings of the WCHL the previous season. The 12th overall pick never played a day in the NHL and had his best professional year in 1974-75 with the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA where he scored 19 goals. The Blackhawks passed on players like Craig Ramsay and Larry Robinson to draft Spring.
In 1975 the Hawks selected forward Greg Vaydik seventh overall. Vaydik was coming off a 106 point season for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WCHL. He would go scoreless in his only five games of his NHL career in the 1976-77 season. He spent the rest of this career bouncing around the CHL and AHL. While there wasn’t any Hall of Fame caliber talent passed up to take him there were plenty of players who went on to have decent NHL careers selected after Vaydik.
The Blackhawks selected defenseman Bruce Cassidy 18th overall in 1983 and would have been better taking David Cassidy. He would go on to play only 36 game for the Blackhawks with the most, 21, coming in 1987-88 where he scored three goals and added ten assists. No player selected in the first round that year played fewer games in the NHL than Cassidy. They should have selected the player who went to the Edmonton Oilers with the very next pick, Jeff Beukeboom, who went on to play over 800 games in the NHL.
It is always risky taking a goaltender with a high draft pick and the Blackhawks learned this the hard way when they took Jimmy Waite with the eighth overall pick in 1987. This turned out to be a pretty weak draft for goalies as the best one from that year would be future Blackhawk Jeff Hackett who was taken by the New York Islanders in the second round. Waite would play in 58 games over eight seasons in Chicago and only posted 14 wins. His career .861 save percentage and 3.64 goals against average was hardly worth the top ten pick. Let’s hope he has learned more about his craft since he was hired as the Blackhawks’ new goaltenders coach this offseason. Hard to believe Joe Sakic fell to the 15th pick that year.
The Blackhawks wasted the 6th overall pick in 1989 on defenseman Adam Bennett. This whole draft was a bust for the Hawks as they got on 34 games out of the entire draft class; 21 of them from Bennett. He had the size at 6’4 and over 200 pounds but never could stick in the NHL. The Hawks shipped him to Edmonton for Todd Gill at the start of the 1993-94 season where he would play 48 games but never skated in the NHL after that year.
In 1993 the Blackhawks took big left winger Eric Lecompte with the 24th overall pick. Lecompte would go on to have a long pro career in the IHL, Europe and Quebec where he played as recent as 2013. The problem was he would never wear a Blackhawks sweater or one of any NHL team. In hind sight, picking a guy like Jamie Langenbrunner at that spot would have worked out much better.
Dmitri Nabokov gave the Blackhawks 11 points in 25 games after being selected 19th overall in the 1995 Entry Draft. He would not be the last first round pick wasted on a Russian born player as Mike Smith picked Mikhail Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev, back to back, with the 10th and 11th overall picks in 2000. How do you say “hot garbage” Russian? Smith would draft 11 Russian players over four seasons with the best being Anton Babchuk who only played 22 games in Chicago. The Blackhawks would get only 12 goals and 24 assists in 57 combined games by these two busts. Never mind that players like Justin Williams, Brooks Orpik, Steve Ott and Niklas Kronwall were all selected later in that round.
Mike Smith struck again in 2001 when he took goaltender Adam Munro with the 29th overall pick. Munro would only make 17 appearances in two seasons with the Blackhawks. His one career shutout didn’t do much to help his .887 save percentage and 3.30 goals against average. Munro would spent quite a few years in the AHL before calling it quits in 2012 after bouncing around Europe for three years. Derek Roy and Mike Cammalleri were both selected in the second round in 2001 and the best goaltenders of that draft were Ray Emery, Mike Smith and Craig Anderson who the Blackhawks took in the 3rd round. Two goalies in the first three rounds? Wow, Smith was a terrible GM!
The 2004 NHL Entry Draft started with the selections of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Cam Barker. That is quite the drop off! But the next four picks were Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Al Montoya and Rostislav Olesz, so the cream rose to the top in that draft class. Barker showed promise in 2008-09 when in put up 40 points from the blue line in 68 games but never came close to those kind of numbers again. At least Stan Bowman was able to turn Baker into Nick Leddy in February of 2010.
The very next year saw Dale Tallon take Jack Skille with the seventh overall pick over guys like Anze Kopitar, T.J. Oshie and Tuukka Rask. Skille would struggle in his years in Chicago as he would always have trouble finishing a scoring chances. He couldn’t find the back of the net with a treasure map and Sean Astin and Josh Brolin as linemates. Skille was moved to the Florida Panthers for Michael Frolik as we all know, became an important role player on the 2013 Stanley Cup team.
The two most recent busts have been in the news the last few days. The first being Kyle Beach who was selected 11th overall in 2008. Beach was supposed to have it all. He was big, physical and could score at will. What he became was a giant meatball who couldn’t stay out of the penalty box or the injured list. Tallon passed up defensemen Tyler Myers and Eric Karlsson to draft Beach. It looked like Beach was finally getting it at the start of the 2011 season for the Rockford IceHogs. His season ended when he injured his shoulder in a fight just 19 games into the year. He was traded to the New York Rangers for Brandon Mashinter last season. Last week Beach signed with EC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League and has yet to suit up in the NHL.
And the most recent draft bust is Kevin Hayes. Now, Hayes still might be a good NHL player but the Blackhawks selected Hayes 24th overall a few weeks after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. As we all know, Hayes went on to play for Boston College and never signed with the Hawks and is now a New York Ranger. Charlie Coyle was selected just five picks later and he would look pretty sexy in the black and red.