23-24 . . .

2000 :
Hawks' 2000 picks growing up // "Chicago Sun Times" ( )


While the Blackhawks are concentrating on this year's NHL draft, which takes place Saturday and Sunday in Sunrise, Fla., they remain confident in the potential of their two first-round picks from last season--Russian forwards Mikhail Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev. But they also admit Vorobiev is further along in his development after playing a regular role for Yaroslavl last season while Yakubov spent most of his time on the bench for Lada Togliatti. 

"[Vorobiev] was in a better situation," Hawks assistant general manager Nick Beverley said. "The team he was with was not averse to playing young players. As a result, he got lots of ice time. Yakubov's team has an older-style coach and is more of a throwback to the old Russian system where younger players spend their time watching." 

Pressed further, Beverley admitted Vorobiev's skill and maturity might also have something to do with his success as compared to Yakubov--a sentiment expressed by several other members of the Hawks' scouting staff. 

"Vorobiev is a more vibrant guy in the way he plays," director of player personnel Dale Tallon said. "He's a little more mature and seems to be more with it and a little older in his ways. He has a presence about him and is a confident young guy." 

Vorobiev scored eight goals and eight assists in 36 games with Yaroslavl last season and two goals and three assists in seven games in the World Junior Championship after the Hawks selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Vorobiev, a right wing advertised as a dynamic scorer and finisher, is expected to take part in the Hawks' prospects camp next week. 

Yakubov, meanwhile, didn't score a point in 24 games with Lada Togliatti last season and recorded one assist in seven games in the World Junior Championship after the Hawks selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Yakubov, a center hailed as a good skater and playmaker, hasn't been given permission by his club to attend the prospects camp and most likely will be unable to participate. 
General manager Mike Smith said he doesn't expect either player to take part in the team's regular training camp this fall, which means it'll be at least a year before Hawks fans will get an up-close glimpse of their potential. 

Neither player speaks English very well and a translator is present for most of the Hawks' conversations with them. Because of that language barrier, they appear shy and quiet. But director of amateur scouting Bill Lesuk was impressed when he interviewed them before the draft last season. 

"Both appear to be team players," Lesuk said. "A lot of kids leave home when they're 12 or 13 years old and go to programs in Russia. They're really kept busy on the ice twice a day and doing dry-land training. As a group, their maturity is probably in some ways far greater just because of the situation they've been put in." 

The Hawks are hoping the players' character will help them through any adversity they face in their path toward the NHL--particularly Yakubov, since he has struggled somewhat so far. 

"Mikhail has to work through this problem and show the coach he's better than he might expect," Lesuk said. "He has to show mental toughness and think of it as a learning experience." 

Beverley said Yakubov did his best to keep a positive attitude last season and concentrated on developing his physique and getting stronger when he wasn't able to get on the ice. And Tallon felt better about the situation after watching Yakubov put together a solid performance in St. Petersburg in April. 

"We make sure he's well taken care of and can get stronger," Tallon said. "He played very well in April, which was very important because it hasn't been a great year with him. But he'll cope with it and it'll make him a stronger person."