FEATURE: Doneghey set to lead Blackhawks first draft
The last three months have been a whirlwind for Mike Doneghey.
When Kyle Davidson was named Blackhawks general manager in March, one of his first moves was to promote Doneghey to director of amateur scouting, tasking him with leading the team until the NHL Draft in July. With just weeks to spare in amateur seasons around the world, Doneghey got to work booking trips around the world to see some of this year’s top talent firsthand and catch up with the rest. of the amateur scouting team.
“Fortunately, there were about six weeks of hockey left in North America and Europe,” Doneghey said. “We don’t have a first choice, but we still have to know those players… We have to prepare as if we were picking anywhere from one to anywhere, and know those guys the same way and out of the ice.”
The Blackhawks’ former 1989 12th-round pick never made it to the NHL on the ice, but over the past 12 seasons, Doneghey has become an integral part of the team’s off-ice scouting staff and player staff. organization. He cut his teeth for nearly 10 years on the amateur scouting circuit, starting as a part-time scout the year Chicago took Kevin Hayes to the first round of the Doneghey home region in the northeast. , then rose through the ranks to become a full-time Scout and eventually head of the American Scout.
In recent years, he has taken on larger roles as Director of Player Assessment and, more recently, Director of Player Personnel, expanding his scouting reach to leagues at all levels of the world, both amateur and professionals. His unique background gives him a global vision of the game, the amateur pool and the steps to follow to obtain a 17 or 18 year old draft pick in the NHL.
“He’s done a terrific job over the years,” associate general manager Norm Maciver said. “He’s very passionate about what he does, very detailed in what he does and he’s a very hardworking guy. He put in his time and he was rewarded…I think that perspective gives him a bit more baseline for what he really wants in terms of traits and stats watching these players go forward.”
This week, Doneghey, Davidson, Maciver and associate general manager Jeff Greenberg, along with head scouts from the United States, Canada and Europe, dig deeper into preparation for the 2022 NHL Combine Draft at Buffalo, where 85 top prospects make their cases to 32 teams. The Blackhawks squad went through four straight days of one-on-one conversations with future NHL prospects before follow-up conversations and fitness testing wrap up the week-long showcase in the coming days.
Chicago doesn’t have a first-round pick entering the draft, but with five total picks in the second and third rounds — ranging from 38th to 96th overall — significant talent for the future of the rebuilding franchise will come without any doubt. of this year’s prospect pool.
“When we look at the second and third rounds, there’s probably a reason why some of these kids have dropped in terms of other teams’ rosters across the league,” Maciver said. “What we try to do is really separate out the characteristics and traits that we really value and we do our best to try and obviously find players that we think can help us down the road.”
This week’s conversations with potential picks will begin to solidify the list of targets for Doneghey and his team to work on in early July, making the most of each Blackhawks selection.
“You have a painted picture of these players and what the on-ice product brings,” Doneghey explained, “so now you can really dig in and see their mannerisms, their (build), the way they talk, the way they shake your hand, eye contact. You can see the character side and what they will bring to your organization.
He designates a player as Alex De Brincat, a No. 39 overall pick in 2016, like the kind of talent that can be found in those second and third rounds if he and his team do their due diligence at every level. The Carolina Hurricanes, Doneghey added, have been a regular playoff contender in recent years with three impact players — Sebastian Aho, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin — who were second-, third-, and fourth-round picks, respectively.
“The players are there,” he said. “You just have to roll up your sleeves, leave no stone unturned and get on with it.”
Over the next five weeks, Blackhawks personnel will prepare for every scenario and every possibility. With 37 picks ahead of Chicago’s first-round pick, they have to sit down and wait their turn on the clock. Doneghey has been through the process enough over the past few years to know that the more you prepare, the quicker you can react on draft day – If these four players are there, who is our choice? If it’s these three, which position do we value the most? If this player falls into this range, would we consider moving up? At what price?
“If you like a player, you have to go get him,” Doneghey said. “You have to trust your scouts. You have to trust your own pair of eyes, your own knowledge of the draft.”
“I was really impressed with the way he leads the group, the way he leads meetings and interviews here in Buffalo,” Maciver said of Doneghey. “I think he’s done a tremendous job. Just seeing him mature as the leader of this group has been very impressive so far.”
It has been a tireless road for Doneghey in preparation for his first draft at the helm of the team, but work he is delighted to see pay off on July 7-8.
“From Kyle, to me, to the amateur scouts, there’s a lot of excitement out there in this lineup (of choices),” Doneghey said. “A lot of the group have seen (the players) through the U18 championships or the world championships or different tournaments and venues throughout the year. We can all feel, from 38 to 96, that there is will have some good value players there. – let’s get them. The guys are excited about the players that are there. Really excited.