|Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman makes a selection at the 2013 NHL Draft (Getty Images).
Blackhawks VP/GM Stan Bowman spoke with with the media ahead of the 2014 NHL Draft to discuss organizational depth, the value of draft picks in the salary cap era and more.
How much more value is there in a draft pick today then there was 10 years ago?
The difference now is [there's] more willingness to use younger players in the NHL right away than there was 10 or 15 years ago. Back then you would draft a player knowing they would take a couple years to develop. Now each year we see players jumping right into the NHL. It’s a young man's game now. You embrace those young players. For the most part, those are the top guys from the draft. Occasionally you’ll see a guy drafted in the second round that could play right away. At the top end of the draft, there’s a willingness to put those guys right into the NHL. After you get past that, there’s a wide range of options. You could pick later in the first round, but you are [adding] to a pretty good team at that point because you’re picking late by definition. You probably don’t have any holes to fill, so you’ll have to wait your turn. When you do get a chance, you’re probably surrounded by good players. There’s two sides to that, so I’m not sure there’s one answer, but that’s how I see that breaking down.
The consensus on this draft is that it’s not the deepest one in recent memory. Does that make you more or less inclined to move from the spot you’re in right now, late in the first round?
I don’t know if we would make that judgment based on the depth of the draft. That’s in the eye of the beholder. People will say it’s a bad draft or a decent draft. There are players we like, and we’ve had a pretty good recent history with finding players who weren’t being as highly touted going in. We’re not picking really early, and we’re not expecting any player to come in and play for our team next year, but if we do our job correctly we’ll be able to find players throughout the draft. We’re picking late in the first round, which will have some decent players that we like there. There’s value to be found if you do your job properly preparing for the draft.
With the depth in the system and players signed to long-term deals, do you focus on looking further down the line more so now than you did before?
BLACKHAWKS 2014 DRAFT COVERAGE
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Get the inside scoop on a few of the players who may be available at No. 27.READ MORE ›
We have a pretty good pipeline of players at different levels of their development right now. There are some players in Rockford that are right on the doorstep of playing in the NHL. There’s probably another grouping that are maybe a year away. And then we have players that are still in college, who are a couple years away. For this year, we’re ok with the fact that the player may not be right on the doorstep of being ready because we’ve got a pretty good pipeline that we’ve been able to build up. We’re hoping to get some players that we know will take some development time. That’s OK with us. The other side of it is that we’ve had some luck with players like Andrew Shaw who are a little older and were able to come in pretty quickly and contribute. We don’t lean one way or another, we take it as it comes. We’re comfortable teaching the guys that might need some time because we have some guys that are close already.
Considering the past few drafts, there have been some trades involving the Blackhawks. How confident are you with the second-line center position? Is the answer already on the roster or in the organization for next year?
We’ve probably talked this one up quite a bit. We don’t number our lineups as much as our media does. We’re confident in the AHL players. The timing of that will play itself out in the coming months. When you’re talking about the draft, especially when we’re picking, we’re not expecting a player from late in the first round to come play for our team next year, and that’s OK. But we do know the importance of having young players in the system. Asking about trades, it’s possible. We might get additional picks or we might package picks together and move around. We’ve had a lot of discussions about those possibilities, so will it happen before tomorrow? I’m not sure. We’ve had a number of discussions, and that’s part of what we’re looking at ahead of tomorrow.
You’ve had someone from the system break into the lineup almost every year. What in your system and draft process is working for you?
It’s probably more so a determination of our staff doing a good job of identifying talent, and our development group has done a good job—starting with our group in Rockford, including Mark Bernard, Ted Dent and Mark Osiecki. They’ve done a good job taking these players that have some talent from college or juniors or Europe, and have taken them to the next level to when they’re professionals. I think that’s something we’ve put a lot of effort into. Another layer of that is our development group; Barry Smith is in charge of that, and he has a few people working with him, spending time with the players that are still in Europe or juniors or college so that by the time they get to Rockford, they have some contact with our organization and how we do things and what it takes to get to the NHL. We’re trying to shorten that time horizon, from the time you’re drafted to the time you play in the NHL. The combination of those things have come together to help us get a player or two each year who make the jump.