In 2003, the NHL draft featured one of its best classes ever, and with the 14th overall pick, the Blackhawks took one of their top defensemen in recent memory, Brent Seabrook. Seabrook recently sat down with chicagoblackhawks.com to discuss his experiences leading up to that draft and more.
Looking back at the whole draft process, what’s the first experience that comes to mind?
Well, the first memory I have is that when my agent took Colin Fraser and me – we were both in Edmonton together and had the same agent – took us both out to a store to get a suit for the draft. We had clothes for weddings and funerals, or whatever, but he actually took us out and got us nice suits specifically for the draft. He advanced the money for us to get them.
It really seems like the entire year before a draft is so full of pressure and such a grueling experience…
The whole year is just so grueling for the prospects. It’s not only the combine; you have meetings and dinners, you talk with scouts, and so much more throughout the year. That’s fine, but for a 17- or 18-year-old kid who’s not used to sitting and talking to someone about their career and life, and who’s so worried about saying the right things, it’s a change, for sure. Also, just getting ready to play is huge. The entire year is magnified, and you don’t know who will be in the crowd that night.
And the combine and workouts are big too; I had interviews with 25 teams, which was one of the most of the guys there because I was right on the cusp of being a first- or second-round pick for most of that year.
So out of all of those interviews, do you remember anything about your time with the Blackhawks’ personnel?
I don’t think I really got to talk to the Blackhawks’ brass in Nashville; I think it was just [mental skills coach] Jim Gary. We talked for about two hours, but I’m pretty sure he was the only member of the Hawks I talked to in the days leading up to the draft.
Heading into that night, do you have any sense of where you were going to go?
Well, I had sort of figured that I might go somewhere between 12th and 14th overall; the Rangers had 12, Los Angeles had 13, and Chicago was 14. I had talked with those three teams, so I had guessed that I would be picked there, or I’d have to wait until a little bit later.
As the draft was taking place, my mom told me, “You’re going to Chicago,” because she kept looking down at the draft floor, and she saw the scouts at the Blackhawks’ draft table staring at us. I wasn’t really paying attention, but she was really into it, and she thought that’s where I was going.
Who did you bring with you to the draft?
I just had my mom and dad and my brother Keith. Then some people from my agency were there; they had six or seven guys who were there at the draft. It was pretty fun; they had Braydon Coburn, Ryan Getzlaf, Colin Fraser, Paul Brown – we had a lot of fun together.
So aside from the guys who you played with in the Western Hockey League, how much did you know the other members of your draft class?
You know about the guys who you play with and the guys who you play against. I was lucky enough to play for Team Canada in the Under-18 championship, so I got to meet a bunch of the guys from the Ontario and Quebec leagues. There were six defensemen taken in the first round my year – Ryan Suter, Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, myself, Mark Stuart and Shawn Belle – and I had played with four of those guys in a couple of tournaments, and four of us were Western League guys, so I knew them really well. But I knew it was a hell of a draft overall.
That draft, as you probably know, is one of the best draft classes ever, at least in the top two or three. Just looking at the first round, there’s only a couple of guys who don’t have 200 or more NHL games under their belt, and many are legitimate stars in the league. Is that something you sometimes think about and take pride in?
It’s something we do talk about. Guys on the team sometimes ask me who else was in that draft; it seems like every team in the league has someone from that draft class, and they’re usually one of the stars of the team. You have the top guys like Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal, and on down the line to Corey Perry, Getzlaf, Zach Parise, Coburn, Suter, Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards… it’s a ton of great players. It seems to come up a little bit when we talk.
I think the biggest thing about the process is that you always have to enjoy it... because the work is going to start soon enough. - Brent Seabrook
And along that same line, another member of that draft class was Corey Crawford, who was also in attendance in Nashville. Did you have a chance to meeting him before prospect camp that summer?
I met him there; the Blackhawks had a party for the guys who were drafted during the first three rounds. I got to meet Corey, [second-round pick] Michal Barinka… we didn’t have a third-rounder that year. We had a chance to sit down and talk to each other a little bit, and between that and meeting the guys who you knew going to other teams, it was a lot of fun.
What was your next few days like following being drafted?
The Blackhawks were nice enough to let me go home to Vancouver and go to my high school graduation. I flew into Chicago the next day at 5 a.m., and I had to miss the first few days of prospect camp. It was nice for me to come home, and my friends were all really excited for me. I got to do a couple of local newspaper interviews, but that was about it.
A couple of years later, your brother Keith entered the draft. What were some of the things you told him about the draft process?
I think the biggest thing about the process is that you always have to enjoy it. You have to have fun doing the interviews and talking with the different teams. It’s pretty neat; some of the guys who you’re talking with are Hall of Famers, guys you watched play growing up, and it’s a great experience. You have to enjoy it because the work is going to start soon enough; once the summer camps hit, you’re going to be looked upon to step in immediately, and that takes dedication and hard work. Take a moment to celebrate because come training camp, it’s going to be tougher times.