It's often been said it takes NHL defensemen a little longer to reach their potential. Few rookie blueliners make the jump right from the juniors or college to the National Hockey League in their first season. In fact, you don't have to look further than current Blackhawks Duncan Keith
and Brent Seabrook
; both were brought along slowly and gradually given more responsibilities as younger players, and now both are cornerstones of the Hawks' defensive core.
Steve Poapst was another such player.
Poapst played 220 of his 307 NHL games with the Blackhawks from 2000-04, and didn't really get a full-time roster spot until he was 31. In fact, he spent much of his time with the Hawks shuttling between Chicago and their AHL affiliate, then the Norfolk Admirals.
Small for a blueliner, Poapst was overlooked by many scouts after two stints with Washington. However, he made up for his lack of size with his superior skating and hockey sense, and he was considered a steady stay-at-home defender. Poapst’s best season was the 2002-03 campaign, when he appeared in 75 games for the Hawks and registered a +16 plus/minus rating.
Steve's professional career spanned more than 1,000 games. He played on the 1992 Hampton Roads ECHL championship team, then was on Portland’s 1994 Calder Cup championship squad and was named to AHL All-Star team that season.
While his stats were never imposing, Poapst was named Chicago's nominee for the Masterton Trophy in 2003, awarded to the player who best exemplifies qualities of sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication.
Steve and his family still reside in the Chicagoland area and he is currently the head coach and general manager of the USHL’s Chicago Steel. He won the USHL’s Coach of the Year award in 2008. Get Steve's autograph at the United Center Monday, Nov. 9 when the Blackhawks host the Los Angeles Kings.