While most teams can excel at either drafting talent or acquiring it via free agency, the Chicago Blackhawks have been able to do both during the tenure of General Manager Stan Bowman.
Ever since he took the reins in July 2009, Bowman has overseen a team that has won three Stanley Cups and done so largely with homegrown talent and a couple of key acquisitions on the open market.
His skills as a negotiator will be on full display next week as free agency opens, but on Friday he’ll be focused on selecting the next crop of potential Blackhawks players at the NHL Entry Draft in Florida. With that as the backdrop, we felt that it would be appropriate to examine Bowman’s five best picks as GM of the team, and what each of the selection reveals about his abilities in the position.
5. Stephen Johns (60th overall, 2010)
The defenseman has yet to make his jump into the NHL, but after a successful collegiate career and a lot of hype, he should be a serious part of the team’s rotation next season. The team hasn’t had a player of his physicality on the blue line since Niklas Hjalmarsson first came into the league (his game has obviously changed), but Johns could add a new dimension on the blue line and was an interesting change of pace pick for Bowman.
4. Joakim Nordstrom (90th overall, 2010)
Nordstrom hasn’t been an offensive stud for the Hawks (although he’s shown some serious promise in Rockford with the IceHogs), but he has performed well on the fourth line at the NHL level, and he could potentially be a building piece in the bottom six as the Hawks execute some roster turnover this offseason. His versatility in multiple roles and positions is a testament to what Bowman looks for in later round picks.
3. Teuvo Teravainen (18th overall, 2012)
First round draft picks don’t generally get a lot of praise, but taking an undersized winger with defensive questions is a bit of a risk in this spot. Obviously Bowman got the pick pretty much right, as Teravainen has shown aptitude for playing at both ends of the ice, and if he can continue to evolve as a guy that can evade contact (a la Kane), he’s going to be a key cog for this squad.
2. Andrew Shaw (139th overall, 2011)
When it comes to sheer value, there’s been no better pick that Bowman has made than grabbing Shaw in the fifth round of the draft. Ever since he’s come into the league, he’s been a solid player all over the lineup, and his constant netfront presence and ability to convert rebounds into goals isn’t something generally seen in a player of his physical size. He’s an excellent value at $2 million, and he is the type of player that teams need in order to be successful.
1. Brandon Saad (43rd overall, 2011)
Plenty of teams passed on Saad when the Pittsburgh native entered the draft, but Bowman smartly picked him and has reaped the benefits ever since. He’s a first line winger who plays with the awareness and discipline of a veteran, and he is only going to get better as he gains more experience. He is an excellent player and is likely going to be a part of this team’s core for a long time.