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Drafting at 27: A year-by-year breakdown

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
Next weekend in Philadelphia, history says VP/GM Stan Bowman will have quality players left on the board to draft. (Getty Images)

Although the Blackhawks aren't making their first selection until late in the first round at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, there should still be plenty of talent on the table for Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman, Senior Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley and the Blackhawks hockey operations staff to add to the system. There have been some hidden gems at the 27th slot over the years, as evidenced by a quick look through the history books. An examination of recent drafts, starting from 2011, reveals a variety of skill sets that were selected at the 27th spot, as well as their success compared to players who were still available.

Here are the guidelines for comparison:
  • The players still "on the board" were all picked within 10 spots of the actual 27th pick, since the players picked immediately after 27 were probably projected to be roughly similar in terms of potential and talent. Additionally, it's not fair to say a team should have taken Player X at 27, only to have him slip all the way into the fifth round.
  • When possible, the players still on the board should play the same position as the player actually drafted. If a team was looking to draft a forward, they may not have selected a goalie at that spot, no matter who was left to choose.
  • Stats count, but games played count more. Production is of course important, but if a player appears in 900 games and has the same number of points as a player who appeared in 500, the player with more games will usually, but not always, prevail.
  • The 27th-overall picks from 2013 (Marko Dano, CBJ) and 2012 (Henrik Samuelsson, PHX) aren't listed, since it's far too soon to judge either the picks themselves or their overall draft classes.
  • The list extends back to 1998, the last year the 27th pick was still in the first round of the draft. Prior to that year, that pick would have been a second-rounder.
Year Team   Who was selected Who was still on the board
C Vladislav Namestnikov - London (OHL) RW Rickard Rakell (30th)
RW Tomas Jurco (35th)
C Boone Jenner (37th)

Namestnikov made his NHL debut last season, skating in four games for Tampa Bay without registering a point, but his AHL numbers were impressive (48 points in 56 games). That puts him just slightly behind contemporaries such as Rickard Rakell (4 assists in 18 games with Anaheim this year), Tomas Jurco (15 points in 36 games for an injury-depleted Detroit team), and Boone Jenner (29 points in his first full NHL campaign with Columbus). Time will tell whether Namestnikov—among others from the deep 2011 draft class—will stick in the NHL.

2010 PHOENIX G Mark Visentin - Niagara (OHL)
C/RW Charlie Coyle (28th)
RW Emerson Etem (29th)
D Justin Faulk (37th)

Goalies often take longer to develop into NHL-ready form, and former World Juniors starter Visentin is on the cusp after making his debut with Phoenix at the tail-end of the 2013-14 season. Phoenix is always looking for depth scoring, however, and could have benefited from the power games of Charlie Coyle and Emerson Etem, who were both selected immediately after Visentin, or the puck-moving abilities of blueliner Justin Faulk, who represented Team USA in Sochi.

C Philippe Paradis - Shawinigan (QMJHL)
RW Carter Ashton (29th)
D Simon Despres (30th)
C Ryan O’Reilly (33rd)

Five years on, it’s safe to say that Paradis has not come close to realizing his potential as a first-round pick, either with Carolina, Chicago or Tampa Bay. The Hurricanes—like a lot of teams—could have benefited enormously from Ryan O’Reilly, a gritty, do-it-all forward whose stock suffered from a lack of production in his draft-eligible year, but now is part of a young, talented core emerging in Colorado. Other options included power forward Carter Ashton and tall, mobile defenseman Simon Despres.

D Slava Voynov (32nd)

The Caps nailed their 27th-overall selection in Carlson, who scored the overtime game-winner for Team USA in the gold medal game at 2010 World Juniors before making the jump to the NHL. Since then, the two-way defenseman has matured into one of Washington’s best players, leading to an Olympic call-up earlier this year. The 2008 draft was extremely deep on defense, and no team benefited more than the Los Angeles Kings, who picked Drew Doughty at second overall before selecting the offensively talented Slava Voynov in the second round.

2007 DETROIT D Brendan Smith - St. Michael's (OPJHL)
D T.J. Brennan (31st)

There were a few hit-or-miss picks on defense in the 2007 draft year, but Smith can be safely categorized as a solid NHL contributor after completing his second full season with Detroit. Brennan is the only other blueliner in the selection range who has had any sort of exposure at the NHL level, but he’s bounced around with several clubs since being drafted. One player plenty of teams missed out on: 2013 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban, who wasn’t taken until the 43rd spot.

2006 DALLAS D Ivan Vishnevskiy - Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
LW Nick Foligno (28th)
D Chris Summers (29th)
LW Jamie McGinn (36th)

Vishnevskiy had a couple cups of coffee with Dallas, but otherwise remained in the American Hockey League—including a stint with the Rockford IceHogs in 2010-11—before returning to the Kontinental Hockey League for good. Selected two spots below him, Summers has bounced between Phoenix’s NHL and AHL squads after finishing a fine four-year college career. There were also a couple of useful NHL forward options left on the board at that spot.

2005 Washington
D Joe Finley - Sioux Falls (USHL)
D Matt Niskanen (28th)
D Marc-Edouard Vlasic (35th)

Finley took awhile to crack the NHL, and it wasn’t with the team that drafted him; he’s been a fringe player for the last few years, most recently with the New York Islanders. Washington would have been richly rewarded with either Matt Niskanen, who has developed into a fine offensive defenseman, or Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has been a mainstay on San Jose’s blue line since he was 19 years old and garnered some Norris Trophy buzz this season.

2004 Washington D Jeff Schultz - Calgary (WHL)
D Mark Fistric (28th)
D Mike Green (29th)

After seven seasons on Washington’s blue line, Schultz played most of last season in the AHL, although he was able to fill a hole on the blue line for the Los Angeles Kings during their 2014 Stanley Cup run. The Caps have also benefited from several massively productive seasons from Green, while Fistric, a big, punishing blueliner, has been slightly less consistent, bouncing from club to club in recent seasons.

2003 Los Angeles LW Jeff Tambellini - Michigan (NCAA)
RW Corey Perry (28th)
LW Loui Eriksson (33rd)

Despite finding plenty of success at the junior, college and international levels, Tambellini’s pedigree never translated to a fruitful NHL career. He spent six seasons bouncing between the AHL and NHL in L.A., New York and Vancouver, before going overseas. From that legendary 2003 draft year, the Kings could have acquired a franchise cornerstone like Corey Perry, who is currently one of the game’s purest scorers (and most effective pests), or a strong two-way talent like Loui Eriksson.

F Mike Morris - St. Sebastian's (USHS-MA)
C Jim Slater (30th)
C Jarret Stoll (36th)

The Sharks took a flyer on undersized prep star Morris, who starred for Northeastern University before suffering a concussion that would hinder the rest of his collegiate career; Morris never made it past the AHL level for San Jose and retired in 2009. Still on the board were Slater, who has spent his entire career with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, and Stoll, who has provided important depth for Edmonton and Los Angeles.

2001 PHILADELPHIA D Jeff Woywitka - Red Deer (WHL)
C Dave Steckel (30th)
C Derek Roy (32nd)

After being traded from Philadelphia to Edmonton and then St. Louis, Woywitka made his NHL debut in the 2005-06 season and skated in 278 games; he currently plays in the German league. There haven’t been any notable defenseman to emerge from that draft range, but two centers were available in Steckel—once a mainstay with the Capitals, now largely a depth defensive specialist—and Roy, a speedy scorer who made a name for himself in Buffalo.

2000 Boston D Martin Samuelsson - Modo Jr. (SWE)
D Niklas Kronwall (29th)
D Nick Schultz (33rd)

Samuelsson played just 14 games with Boston before the 2004-05 lockout, then returned to Sweden. This pick represents a big miss for Boston, who could have enlisted the services of Kronwall, a key cog on Detroit's blue line, or Schultz, a steady defense-first type who hasn’t played below the NHL level since breaking into the league with Minnesota in 2001.

1999 New Jersey
G Ari Ahonen - JYP (FIN)
D Alexei Semenov (36th)
G Alex Auld (40th)

Essentially a wasted first-round pick by New Jersey, who already had a franchise goaltender just beginning to enter his prime in Martin Brodeur; Ahonen languished in the AHL before returning to Europe. The only goalie taken within a round of Ahonen was Auld, a journeyman netminder whose most prolific season came with Vancouver in 2005-06.

1998 NEW JERSEY C Scott Gomez - Tri-City (USHL)
RW Jonathan Cheechoo (29th)

NOTES: Gomez became a core player for New Jersey throughout some of their most successful years, winning two Cups with the Devils during his seven seasons there; despite declining numbers, he continues to provide veteran depth in the NHL. Although Cheechoo was a productive scoring forward in his own right, earning the 2006 Rocket Richard Trophy after posting 56 goals for San Jose that season, his career was never the same after sustaining a concussion the next year.
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