In the NBA and NFL, there is usually instant gratification. High draft picks play immediately, and they're often looked at strangely if they have to sit for an extended length of time. Meanwhile, later picks often have a good chance to make an impact in their draft year. These so-called "diamonds in the rough" are what make those drafts watchable for the full time they're on television.
Baseball has 50-plus rounds in their draft. High-school players are routinely taken early, and many players will be drafted more than once, because they opt to attend college rather than sign out of high school.
The NHL Draft is seven rounds in length. While many of the first-round picks will sign and play professional hockey -- minor league or NHL -- in their draft year, very few if any of the players picked beyond the first round will see any pro hockey action in 2010-11.
In fact, the hockey draft is unique in that teams hold the players' rights for four years after they get drafted.
In 2006, the Chicago Blackhawks drafted a college-bound forward named Bill Sweatt in the second round. A talented but undersized speedster, Sweatt was headed to Colorado College, following in the footsteps of older brother Lee, who was a good offensive defenseman for the Tigers. Bill Sweatt played four years at CC, amassing 106 points, including 33 as a senior, but never really living up to his full potential.
He did develop solid two-way skills, but his offensive touch wasn't what we thought it would be coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Now out of college, Sweatt is looking for a pro team to play for. The Blackhawks have decided not sign him.
There wasn’t much wiggle room for Chicago to shell out a big contract to a prospect with starting goalie and free agent Antti Niemi looking for a big pay raise (he made $827,000 last season) and money committed to the likes of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
“It was purely a business decision,” (agent Scott) Nelson said.
Past second-round signing bonuses were around $250,000, said Nelson, who is confident he can get most of that back when Sweatt signs as a free agent after Aug. 15, when Chicago’s rights to him expire.
Becoming a free agent may prove beneficial. Sweatt could find an organization that has a number of openings at forward, giving him a better chance to advance to the NHL. European leagues remain an option.
“I have no personal preference,” Sweatt said. “I want to go somewhere that it is the best fit.”
It is a bit of a silver lining for Sweatt. Instead of being stuck with the deep and talented Blackhawks, he can move to an organization looking for cheap talent who can add to their speed.
Hi, Minnesota Wild!
Sweatt will be a free agent in August, and Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher would be wise to make a phone call. While Sweatt didn't become a goal-scoring machine in college, he gained a lot of experience against bigger and older players, and he's still only 21 (he'll turn 22 before the season starts).
His speed would be a welcome addition, whether he ends up being a wing or a center at the next level.
No word on if Minnesota's interested, but it wouldn't be a bad idea.