The 2005 draft certainly had some big names. Anze Kopitar and Tuukka Rask have become some of the NHL's best players. Some guy named Crosby has carved out respectable existence in the NHL as well.
The most appropriate name for a first-rounder from that or any draft in history may have been that of forward Jack Skille (pronounced "Skil-ee") who was selected seventh overall by the Blackhawks.
In the nine years which have passed, Skille has largely failed to find sustained success in the NHL that one would expect from his draft status or suggestive surname. In seven NHL seasons, he has bounced around with the Blackhawks and Panthers before joining the Blue Jackets this past offseason on a one-year, two-way contract.
This past season has seen Skille be shuffled between Columbus and the team's AHL affiliate with Springfield a handful of times while also dealing with injuries. A late season injury to forward Nathan Horton has afforded Skille a chance to nail role on the team's top line with youngsters Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner.
Following today's morning skate, Skille, whose fiance is from the North Hills area of Pittsburgh, talked about tonight's game, his role on the top line and his journey through the NHL:
What has it been like getting a chance on the top line at this stage of the season?
"It’s just like any opportunity any guy is given. You’ve got to play hard no matter what. Try to take advantage of it. At the same time, I’m in the lineup to help the team whatever way possible through my speed, my physical energy and to try and chip in offensively."
Are you pretty much the F1 [lead forechecker] on this line who does most of the "dirty" work?
"Yeah. That’s just my style of play. I’m supposed to be physical and use my shot whenever I have a chance. Just be smart defensively too. Chances are, you’re going to play against guys like [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby. I don’t want to change my game. I think I’m on that line because I have a certain way of playing hockey. That way kind of helps gives room to [Johansen] and help Jenner down in the corners too."
Johansen broke out this season as a 30-goal scorer. What's the scouting report on him?
He’s just a highly skilled big player. He can play physical too. He’s a big body. A lot of speed. Great hands, good vision and he’s got a lot of finish around the net. Obviously, it’s pretty much a full package. He’s good defensively too. It’s been a pleasure playing with him.
You didn't play in any postseason games but you were a part of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2010. Can you draw any experience from that in a game like this tonight or do you just go and play hockey?
"You just play hockey but at the same time, know the importance of it. Know the importance of every single puck decision out there. Make smart plays. Just the little details of the game, if you worry about those then the bigger picture will be good for us. Knowing Pittsburgh, they will make a really big push. We’ve just got to push even harder."
What has this season been like for you?
"Oh, it’s been a roller coaster ride emotionally. Physically as well. I’ve dealt with some injuries. Emotionally, I had a lot of growing up to do. Mainly over the course of my career, a lot of ups and downs. Just perseverance. Just trying to find my offensive game in the minors. Show everyone I don’t belong there. At the same, time, wait for an opportunity and prove to these guys up top that when I do get an opportunity that I can play and stay at this level. That’s been my main goal this season."
Do you think you've given management something to think about this offseason as a free agent?
"I think so. Time will tell obviously. Right now, I’m not worried about. Right now, I’m worried about tonight and extending this first round."
What has your journey through the NHL been like?
"It’s been a tough road. It’s been a tough one for sure. Like I said, there’s been ups and downs but I’ve learned from it. I’m a better person. I think a better hockey player from it. I’ve also learned to deal with the pressure of the outside world and everything. That doesn’t matter at the end of the day. As a young player at a young age, you can worry about things outside of the rink. People’s opinions of you. But what matters is your product on the ice and how you work every day. It’s taken me a while to get there. I’m not worried about anyone’s opinion outside the room. I worry about these guys in here and doing what I can to help this team win."
(Photo: Jay LaPrete/Associated Press)