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One Minute Remaining: Draft Sleepers

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks

There are only 29 other NHL teams that would love the Blackhawks' position of having the #1 pick in the annual draft.

There is no guarantee that the #1 choice will be become an instant star, but with today's sophisticated scouting chances are good that the next Blackhawk will develop into a solid NHL performer.

This is the first time in Chicago's history that the club will get the shot at #1 since its first pick in 1968 when defenseman John Marks was selected 9th overall. Notable 1st rounders for the Blackhawks include current coach Denis Savard (1980); Doug Wilson (1977); Ed Olczyk (1984); Jeremy Roenick (1988); Tuomo Ruutu (2001); and Brent Seabrook (2003) to go with promising prospects Cam Barker (2004), Jack Skille (2005) and Jonathan Toews (2006).

However, the so-called sleepers tend to outshine many 1st rounders in the long run. Some of the many Blackhawk draft surprises past the 1st round include 10th rounder Darryl Sutter; Steve Larmer (6th round); Jack O'Callahan (6th round); Dominik Hasek (10th round); Eric Daze (4th round); James Wisniewski (5th round); and Kyle Calder (5th round).

There are a few more future Hawks who bode well for the team's future. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was the 245th pick in 2003. Troy Brouwer, who led the AHL in rookie scoring last season in Norfolk, was 214th in 2004. Chris Porter, a teammate of Toews at North Dakota who made the NCAA all tourney team, was 282nd in 2003. Adam Burish, who played with Skille at Wisconsin, was 282nd in 2002 and appeared in 9 games with the Hawks last season.

Around the NHL, here are a few more names that the scouts didn't deem worthy of the top 100 when the draft selections were made. Detroit picked up Pavel Datsyuk (171st) and Henrik Zetterberg (210th). Phoenix grabbed current Hawk goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in 1992 at 204th.

New Jersey took Steve Sullivan (now Nashville) at 233rd in 1994. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was taken 205th in 2000. San Jose's top goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, was 219th in 1994 while Mikka Kiprusoff, now starring for Calgary, was the Sharks' selection at #116 in 1995. Dallas goalie Marty Turco was 124th while Ladislav Nagy, now with Dallas, was 177th to St. Louis in 1997.

A couple of other notables include Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller (138th); Toronto's Tomas Kaberle (204th) and Boston goalie Tim Thomas (217th) by Colorado in 1994. Hawk defenseman Adrian Aucoin was picked 117th by Vancouver in 1992.

The bottom line is that the #1 draft choice should prove to be a young man that will have all the makings of a future NHL star, but let's all hope that a few of those so-called sleepers in the later rounds provide the surprises in the Hawk skating paths of Darryl Sutter, Steve Larmer and Eric Daze.

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