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Photo by Jim Orlando
06/20/2011 8:00 AM

Article By: Mike Peck

Draft kicks off on Friday night

Rockford, Ill.- For 210 kids vying to accomplish their dream of playing in the National Hockey League, that dream will be one-step closer to reality this weekend when the NHL conducts its annual entry draft at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

All 30 NHL teams will participate in the seven-round draft that begins on Friday night with the first round starting at 6 p.m. Rounds two through seven will be on Saturday starting at 10 a.m.  Coverage of the draft will be on Versus, TSN and the NHL Network.

Draft picks have served as the core of the Rockford IceHogs since the team joined the American Hockey League as the primary affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rockford became the top affiliate of the Blackhawks before the 2007-08 season and during that time, 118 different players have suited up and played for the IceHogs. Of those 118 players, 71 (60.2%) of them were drafted by an NHL team, including 35 (29.7%) by the Blackhawks.

Last season, 26 of the 36 (72.2%) players to suit up and play for Rockford were selected in the annual NHL Entry Draft, including 11 (30.5%) skaters who were chosen by the Blackhawks. So when watching this weekend’s draft, fans will be watching future IceHogs skaters walk across the stage.

But don’t expect too many, if any, players selected this weekend to don an IceHogs sweater during the 2011-12 season. The 2010-11 IceHogs roster didn’t feature any draft picks from the 2010 draft, but six from the 2009 event.

To further break down last season’s IceHogs roster, relevant to the NHL Draft, it contained eight players who were selected in the first round (Kyle Beach, Hugh Jessiman, Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, Philippe Paradis, Jeff Taffe, Hannu Toivonen and Ivan Vishnevskiy). Beach (2008) and Olsen (2009), however, were the only two first rounders picked by Chicago.

There were also seven second-round draft picks on the IceHogs ‘10-11 roster (Jassen Cullimore, Simon Danis-Pepin, Jimmy Hayes, Ryan Johnson, Igor Makarov, Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri) and just three of them, Danis-Pepin (2006), Makarov (2006) and Pirri (2009), were selected by the Blackhawks.

Cullimore had the distinction last season as the oldest draft pick on Rockford’s roster as he was chosen by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round (29th overall) of the 1991 NHL Draft.

The 26 drafted players from last season’s Rockford squad were selected by 13 different teams, including two by Atlanta (Morin-2009 and Garnet Exelby-1999), Toronto (Chris DiDomenico-2007 and Hayes-2008) and Vancouver (Cullimore-1991 and Andrew Sarauer-2004).

In the modern day of the NHL salary cap, the draft remains a crucial factor in a team’s long term success. The likes of Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Niklas Hjalmarsson were draft picks by Chicago, worked their way through Rockford and the AHL to become Stanley Cup Champions with the Blackhawks.

Other Chicago draft picks on the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship team include Adam Burish (2002) Patrick Kane (2007), Duncan Keith (2002), Brent Seabrook (2004) and Jonathan Toews (2006). Of the 26 players Stanley Cup roster, 10 (38.5%) of them were selected by Chicago in the NHL Draft.

Check out all week as we preview the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Monday: Impact the draft has had on the IceHogs
Tuesday: We’ll look at who the experts think the Blackhawks will choose in the draft
Wednesday: A breakdown of the Blackhawks #1 overall draft picks over the past 20 years
Thursday: A look at the 1st round draft picks who played for Rockford last season and overall
Friday:  An update on the progress of all of Chicago’s draft picks from the 2009 and 2010 draft

Season Tickets On Sale For 2011-12: It'll be a long summer without IceHogs hockey and season ticket packages for the 2011-12 season are now on sale. To find a ticket package that quenches your hockey thirst, call (815) 847-6399.