The Blackhawks and their fans will have their eyes glued to their televisions Monday night at 6 P.M. CDT as they “pray for ping pong balls”. Of course, those ping pong balls are tasked with selecting the winner of the NHL Draft Lottery, which can alter the future of a franchise. If a team defies the odds and lands the first overall pick, they’ll have dibs on selecting Connor Bedard, who will be able to make an impact from day one and have a great chance to be a superstar someday. The same goes for Adam Fantilli, who will be able to slot into the starting lineup and help his team work toward a Stanley Cup.
Chicago will be praying for the balls to bounce their way (ha, ha) alongside every other non-playoff team. The Blackhawks are coming off a pretty abysmal season where they seemed to be tanking for the top pick at times, and they’re rewarded with the third-highest odds of getting it. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re guaranteed to earn a top-five pick and can’t fall out of the top five. They have an 11.5% chance at the top pick while being most likely to drop one or two spots. Their chances of picking fourth or fifth total 69.5%.
The opportunity to pick in the top five is pretty uncommon for the Blackhawks. In fact, since the NHL Lottery was established in 1995, the team has only made a top-five pick four times. It’s safe to say that most of those picks have paid off, but there’s obviously no guarantee.
Cam Barker (2004)
Cam Barker was drafted after a stellar WHL season where he led his team to a President’s Cup. He was taken third overall and signed in the summer of 2005, then was named to the opening roster for his NHL debut. After just one game, he was sent back down to the WHL. The next season, he was moved to the AHL-affiliate Norfolk Admirals, then was called up to the Blackhawks later that year. He finished his rookie season with 35 games. He was in and out of the league for the remainder of his rookie contract, then re-signed to a three-year deal. By 2010, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild. He moved between a few different teams before continuing his career with a long stint in the KHL. Barker recorded 80 total points throughout his time with the Blackhawks.
Jonathan Toews (2006)
Blackhawks fans need no reminder of the career their Captain had. After a successful college career, he was taken third overall in 2006, debuting at the start of the 2007 season. He never looked back and went on to total 1,067 games for the Blackhawks along with over 1,000 as their captain. He tallied 883 points in his illustrious career and is widely regarded as one of the best Blackhawks draft picks ever.
Patrick Kane (2007)
Chicago has had only one first-overall pick in its rich history, and they didn’t waste it. They used it on one of the most highly touted prospects of all time in Patrick Kane, even while notably passing up a deal for three first-round picks in 2007 in exchange for the pick. The choice couldn’t have been better, as Kaner is among the greatest Blackhawks of all time. He and Toews led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups, and he was a nine-time all-star with the team. He won a Hart Trophy, an Art Ross Trophy, and a Conn Smythe Trophy during his 16 seasons with the team. He is one of the greatest first-overall picks of all time as well, placing him among the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.
Kirby Dach (2019)
After being drafted third overall by the Blackhawks in 2019, Dach immediately made his debut at the start of the season. He was productive throughout his first year, then was one of the best players in the 2020 NHL Playoff Bubble. After missing much of the 2020-21 season due to a wrist injury, he came back for the 2021-22 season but struggled to produce. During the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, ending his time with the Blackhawks with 59 total points across three seasons.
The Blackhawks have the unique opportunity to make a selection in the top five this summer, but there’s no guarantee that the pick will pay off. Fans may have to be patient, as the payoff may come later than expected. It’s no secret, however, that the higher they select in the draft, the more likely the pick is to make an impact. With the Lottery set to determine their fate Monday night, Chicago can only pray for ping pong balls.
He was productive throughout his first year, then was one of the best players in the 2020 NHL Playoff Bubble.