RIMOUSKI, Que. -- Two years ago, Rick Dudley was sitting in London's John Labatt Centre with Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon when The Moment happened.
"It was two-thirds through the OHL season, we knew we would end up with a pretty high pick and I had already watched Pat Kane play countless times," the Hawks assistant GM said. "After he made some of those Kane-like moves of his, Dale turned to me and said, 'That's it. That's our guy.'"
One lottery win later, Kane became the No. 1 selection in the 2007 NHL draft.
Dudley tells the tale while sitting in the stands at the Rimouski Colisee waiting for the next Memorial Cup game to start. The young Hawks are the best story in hockey right now and playing in the NHL's Western Conference final against the mighty Detroit Red Wings.
The Windy City mission now is to keep coming back every season.
"We're not drafting first overall anymore," Dudley said. "The organization just went through a period where there was tremendous depth in the American Hockey League in Norfolk and now Rockford. Those players came to Chicago ready to contribute but that has been pretty much drained and needs to be restocked."
The Hawks know they'll lose important pieces over the next few years.
"Especially with the uncertainty of the salary cap, you can't pay everyone what they want and the stars are already in place in Chicago," he said, "so you have to surround them with enough talent."
The Hawks will need foot soldiers.
That's how Windsor coach Bob Boughner spent his NHL career. Last night, his Spitfires' backs were up against the wall -- exactly the spot the bird dogs want to watch.
"These are the games the scouts like to see," he said. "The free agents and players not signed, these are the games where the scouts can see how (they) react."
They wanted to know how potential first rounder Ryan Ellis, a smallish Windsor defenceman, handled the physical battles this week.
"That's really the only question," Dudley said. "Everything else is there."
Ellis' teammate Taylor Hall has been dissected and put under the microscope. That's what happens to a player wearing the label of top prospect for the 2010 NHL draft.
He hasn't held it half as long as John Tavares, who went through nearly four years of constant scrutiny heading into next month in Montreal. Some believe Sweden's Victor Hedman or Brampton's Matt Duchene could top the charts.
"For me, there's nothing more exciting than the situation the Islanders are in right now with first pick," said Dudley, former GM in Ottawa, Florida and Tampa. "This is where you really dig in and get everyone on staff and use every available resource. You have a six-foot-six defenceman who skates like Paul Coffey in Hedman. You have an offensive player in Tavares who has scored everywhere he's been.
"If John did anything in London that made him fall in some people's minds and I don't believe he did, that has to be balanced out by his play at the world juniors in Ottawa.
"He was impressive."
It's all about finding The Moment between GM and player.
Have the Islanders found it in Hedman and Tavares?
"They have options," Dudley said. "In 2002 in Florida, we traded the first pick. Columbus got the player they wanted in (Rick) Nash and we went down to No. 3. I don't think Jay Bouwmeester was too thrilled about it but we got the player we wanted. With Kane, we kept the first pick.
"If it was me with the pick this year, I would send out mixed signals. Let everyone wonder about it."
Stir it up. Make something happen.
Just like the Blackhawks on their playoff run this spring.
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