CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks, winners of three Stanley Cup championships in the past six seasons, will host the 2017 NHL Draft at United Center.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz and team president John McDonough made the announcement Thursday at United Center. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and NBCSN television analyst Eddie Olczyk were also on hand, with Olczyk emceeing the event.
Chicago, which has never hosted the draft in the 53-year history of the event, will host June 23-24, 2017. The 2016 NHL Draft will be held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., on June 24-25.
"When we were getting ready to make the announcement and I was told this was the first time in League history [it's been in Chicago], I said, 'Please, go back and check, that can't be possible,' and it is," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "At the 2017 Draft, our 30 clubs once again will chart the course of their futures, but this time it will be here at the United Center."
Bettman said the dates of the 2017 draft are significant in Blackhawks history, which is why they were chosen.
Defenseman Duncan Keith was awarded his first Norris Trophy on June 23, 2010, and his second Norris on June 24, 2014. The Blackhawks also drafted captain Jonathan Toews on June 24, 2006, and won their second Stanley Cup on June 24, 2013, when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored goals 17 seconds apart in the third period of Game 6 to clinch the series at TD Garden in Boston.
"With those highlights as the backdrop and this outstanding arena as the setting, I know on behalf of the entire NHL family, we're all looking forward to being here for a memorable weekend in the Windy City," Bettman said. "We're excited to be coming here and we're looking forward to the draft in 2017."
Olczyk, who's from Chicago, recalled his own experience of growing up in Chicago and being taken by the Blackhawks with the third pick in the 1984 draft.
That one was held at the Forum in Montreal, where the first 22 drafts were held. Chicago, which was scheduled to have the sixth pick, traded with the Los Angeles Kings to get the third pick. The Blackhawks selected Olczyk after the Pittsburgh Penguins took Mario Lemieux with the first pick and the New Jersey Devils followed by selecting Kirk Muller.
"The Blackhawks selected me, a hometown kid, and I became the first ever American-born native son to be drafted by his hometown team in the first round," said Olczyk, who made his NHL debut in 1984-85 and played five seasons with the Blackhawks. "It was one of the most special moments in my life, along with my family and all of the coaches and volunteers that helped that dream come true."
The draft provides fans with an opportunity to witness the official start for many of the League's future stars. The Edmonton Oilers selected center Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick at the 2015 draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Other past No. 1 selections include Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals, 2004), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh, 2005), Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues, 2006), Patric Kane (Chicago, 2007), Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning, 2008), John Tavares (New York Islanders, 2009), Taylor Hall (Edmonton, 2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton, 2011), Nail Yakupov (Edmonton, 2012), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche, 2013) and Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers, 2014).
"Anytime an NHL event is held in an Original Six city, it adds to it the historical element of the NHL, and with Chicago hosting the 2017 Draft, their storied history at the Chicago Stadium and their success at the United Center will bring home to all NHL fans and future players the rich traditions that come with playing in the National Hockey League," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting.
The projected top choice at the 2017 draft could be center Nolan Patrick of Brandon in the Western Hockey League. Patrick, 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, is considered a power forward with two-way ability and good speed. The Winnipeg native, in his second full season with the Wheat Kings, leads Brandon with 65 points and eight power-play goals. He is tied for the team lead with 26 goals in 54 games.
McDonough said it's the Blackhawks' goal to pick 30th in 2017, which would mean another Stanley Cup title for Chicago. Short of that goal, McDonough said getting the draft for the first time is already a win.
"This is cool," McDonough said. "It's a big day for our franchise, [and] a big day for our fans. It's always fun to bring these jewel events to Chicago. We know the impact they have on our fan base. We want this event to be entertaining. We want this to be innovative, and we it to be memorable."
The press conference provided a stage for the Blackhawks to further introduce their proposed new practice facility, as well. The proposal, which got approval from the city on Wednesday, is expected to be completed in 2018 and will house two sheets of ice plus seating areas and concessions stands. The facility will be used for Blackhawks practices, but will also introduce the community to hockey with clinics and recreation leagues.
"This is an exciting day for the Chicago Blackhawks," Wirtz said. "This is more than a practice facility. It will be a place for the community to learn the sport of hockey, a sport that we love dearly. And you know, one day, that a child that learns to skate on the ice may one day be coming to the NHL draft table and play in this very same building."