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Diamonds In The Rough

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
With their appearance in the Western Conference Final, the Blackhawks find themselves in unfamiliar territory for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, selecting from one of the bottom 10 picks of the first round for the first time since 2002. While the last few picks of the first round don’t get the same amount of hype leading up to the draft, the players below illustrate how successful your career can be even if you’re not one of the first players called.’s Top 5 Picks Selected 26-30th Overall:

5. Mike Green, D (29th overall – Washington Capitals, 2004)

The junior member on the list may have a lot of catching up to do to match the offensive production of his Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin, but the young blueliner had a breakout year in 2008-09. Green, in just his third full season with Washington, led all NHL defensemen with 73 points (31 G, 42 A), and was fourth-best in the league in power play goals (18). Green’s outstanding play continued on the other end of the ice, registering a +24 plus/minus rating. With Green, Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom leading the Caps’ power play, Washington's offense should be the envy of the league for years to come.

4. Martin Havlat, RW (26th overall – Ottawa Senators - 1999)

Without the nagging injuries that have bothered Havlat since coming to Chicago in 2006, Havlat could be known as the best player to come out of the 1999 Draft, which also included Henrik and Daniel Sedin, as well as Henrik Zetterberg. The former Calder Trophy finalist and 2007 All-Star has scored 50 points or more in five of his eight NHL seasons, and led the Blackhawks this year with 77 points. Havlat has also been productive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tallying 49 points (19 G, 30 A) in 67 postseason games, including six game-winning marks.

3. Scott Gomez, C (27th overall – New Jersey Devils, 1998)

From the moment he stepped on the ice in 1999, Gomez’s career was notable for both his hockey and cultural accomplishments. Gomez, the first-ever Latino player to make an NHL roster, won the 2000 Rookie of the Year and the Stanley Cup before he turned 21, and his production has continued to be strong. The two-time All-Star -- who won a second Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 2003 -- has averaged 48 assists per season and led the New York Rangers in scoring this season.

2. Mike Richter, G (28th overall – New York Rangers, 1985)

The only Rangers goalie to record 300 career wins, Richter backstopped New York’s first Stanley Cup win since 1940 and earned a Gold Medal in the 1996 World Cup, as well as a Silver Medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer played a total of 14 seasons with the Rangers, compiling 301 wins, 24 shoutouts and a goals-against average of 2.89. The goalie’s #35 is one of seven numbers retired by the Rangers.

1. Joe Nieuwendyk, C (27th overall – Calgary Flames, 1985)

Considered by many to be one of the best faceoff men in NHL history, Nieuwendyk’s résumé is littered with career achievements: three-time Stanley Cup Champion, Calder Trophy winner in 1988, four-time All-Star, Olympic Gold Medalist and member of both the NHL’s 500-goal and 1000-points club. In Nieuwendyk’s 20-year career, he surpassed the 50-point mark 14 times despite never playing a full season, and his 93 career game-winning goals are good for eighth-best in league history.
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