Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago Blackhawks

Teravainen, Johns on rookie tourney roster

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
10:25
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Powers By Scott Powers
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Chicago Blackhawks prospects Teuvo Teravainen and Stephen Johns shouldn’t have to worry about knocking any rust off their games when training camp opens on Sept. 19.

Teravainen and Johns, who are both expected to compete for NHL roster spots in training camp, were among the 23 players named to the Blackhawks’ 2014 Rookie Tournament roster on Thursday. The team will play three games in London, Ontario from Sept. 13-16.

The roster also includes Blackhawks forward prospects Mark McNeill, Alex Broadhurst, Matt Carey, Phillip Danault, Dennis Rasmussen, Ryan Hartman, Garret Ross, defenseman prospects Dillon Fournier, Viktor Svedberg and Trevor van Riemsdyk and goaltender prospect Mac Carruth. Former Blackhawks defenseman prospects Justin Holl and Kiril Gotovets, who are now signed to AHL contracts with the Rockford IceHogs, were also named to the roster.

Free agents Chadd Bauman, Cody Caron, Cory Thorson, Ryan Van Stralen, Brett Welychka, Jamie Wise, Paul Swindlehurst and Ken Appleby complete the Blackhawks rookie roster.

The Blackhawks rookie team will play the rookie teams of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sept. 13, the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 14 and the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 15. The team will be coached by IceHogs head coach Ted Dent and associate coach Mark Osiecki.

Book closes on Blackhawks, Hayes

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
5:23
PM CT
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The Chicago Blackhawks officially lost out on Kevin Hayes, their 2010 first-round pick, Wednesday as he agreed to a contract with the New York Rangers, and there was nothing they could have done differently to change their fate.

Blackhawks general manger Stan Bowman will undoubtedly be disappointed in losing Hayes to another team, but this isn’t something he’ll be kicking himself over even if Hayes develops into a NHL star.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hayes
Richard T Gagnon/Getty ImagesKevin Hayes left the Blackhawks organization, opting to sign with the Rangers.
Sometime during the winter, Hayes decided he was going to look at all of his NHL options. Hayes had told ESPN Chicago in January he envisioned himself signing with the Blackhawks once his season ended, but his mind changed before that time came around.

Hayes can’t be criticized too much for exploring his possibilities and eventually signing elsewhere. He took advantage of the rules in place. Because Boston College’s season went into April, it wasn’t a big deal for him not to sign with the Blackhawks then. He skipped the chance to play in just a couple of AHL games. After that, he didn’t miss out on anything by not having a contract in place from April until Aug. 15, the last day the Blackhawks had exclusive rights to him. Aside from prospect camp, something he had already attended four times, it’s not as if he was a no-show for team workouts or meetings.

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Roenick sees big things for Kane, Toews

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
11:23
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Strang By Katie Strang
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Former Chicago Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick remembers what it felt like to sign his first long-term deal. The pressure melted away, the sense of anxiety about contract negotiations dissipated and Roenick was allowed to channel all his energy onto the ice.

He suspects current Hawks superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who inked matching eight-year, $84 million deals this summer, will experience the same.

If that’s the case, watch out.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Roenick
J.D. Cuban/Getty ImagesFormer Chicago star Jeremy Roenick thinks the team's current dynamic duo is set up for success.
"When I signed my contract, the pressure that was released off of me was immense," Roenick told ESPN.com, detailing his thought process after the ordeal. "'Now I can play for my team. They took care of me, now I can take care of them.' It’s going to be really fun to watch [Kane and Toews] flourish and play with a free mind and confidence."

Getting the two players under contract until 2023 was a huge coup for a team that has won two Stanley Cup championships in the past five seasons and is among the select few for which the D-word -- dynasty -- can be thrown around in the salary-cap era.

"I think it was very important," said Roenick, who now works as an NHL analyst for NBC Sports. "Two quality players like that, most teams do not possess that luxury. Pittsburgh has [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin, and Anaheim has [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry, but [most teams] don’t really have those elite star players that can change the course of the game like they have."

Having those players to build around for years to come -- Kane and Toews are 25 and 26, respectively -- will ensure that Chicago is a perennial contender. In fact, Roenick sees no reason that Chicago won’t be the favorite once the preseason projections roll in for 2014-15.

"I think they’re one of the strongest-built teams in the league," said Roenick, who played eight seasons for the Blackhawks and scored 513 goals in his 21-year NHL career. "With them, they have amazing star power surrounded with good quality core players. The addition of Brad Richards coming over there as a role player who can help on the power play and be a good leader brings another experienced guy into a locker room of winners."

"I think the team has done a very good job of putting together the pieces, and with Kane and Toews signing these megadeals, they’ll be playing with so much confidence. There’s no competition between the two. They are both top-five players getting paid like it, and it shows the loyalty that the Blackhawks have become known for and [for] building championships."

That said, the Blackhawks will likely be forced to make some sort of trade to move salary out, given the cap constraints facing the club. According to Capgeek.com, the Hawks are $2.26 million over the cap for next year with 23 roster players.

That won’t be the only challenge facing the team, which will square off against stiff competition in what promises to be a stacked Central Division.

Last year’s race was a tight one, and Roenick expects that to be the case this season as well, with one team in particular with something to prove.

He still thinks the Blackhawks are the team to beat but anticipates it being a dogfight.

"I think the St. Louis Blues are gonna come out extremely angry and embarrassed about bowing out early," Roenick said about the Blues’ first-round exit last spring after losing a six-game series to the Hawks.

"I know how Hitch [Blues coach Ken Hitchcock] is, and those two teams are gonna be battling tooth and nail again. I don’t see anyone else really challenging either of those teams.”

Kane wins title, MVP in hometown league

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
2:14
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
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Patrick Kane has a knack for scoring clutch playoff goals regardless of the jersey he's wearing.

The Chicago Blackhawks star and Buffalo native led Milli Vanilli to the Fattey Hockey League title by scoring five of his team's 10 goals in back-to-back wins in a best-of-three series in his hometown earlier this week. He was named the championship MVP.

"It's basically the best Buffalo players," Nik Fattey, the league's founder and a Buffalo Sabres scout, explained of the league in a phone interview on Thursday. "It's not like a bar league. It's a competitive league. It's kind of like a Rucker Park sort of thing, NBA summer league."



Fattey said the 25-year-old Kane, a three-time All-Star who just signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension with the Blackhawks this summer, has been playing in the league for the past five years.

"I think he loves hockey is what it comes down to," Fattey said. "It's where he was born and stuff. No different than a guy who returns to Toronto or Montreal to train and play. Again, lots of guys do play. It's a pretty high level.

"The game's changing. Guys used to take the summer off. They want to keep active now. Guys didn't skate in the past, now they do. It's been really good for the skating. It's games. It's not practicing. Where else can you get a skate and not just glide along? Plus, guys love scoring goals. I don't care where it is."

Kane, of course, does love to score goals. Fattey said the two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner treated fans to a special one in the league's semifinals.

"In the semifinals, he scored just an unbelievable goal," Fattey said. "He came up on the wing and threw up a backhander and it got under the bar. Everyone got their oohs and aahs in."

Kane talked recently about what motivates him to play when he returns to Buffalo.

"When I go back home, it's exciting for me and my buddies to play hockey," Kane said Aug. 4 in Crestwood, Illinois. "It's something we do for fun. By no means if we're playing a game like that, do you think it's going to get out to the media or you think it's going to be a big story or anything like that. You're just going to have fun. That's exactly what we were doing.

"I love the game. I love playing it whether it's in the NHL or in a little men's league during the summer. It's obviously not all the same, but it's still the game of hockey. You can enjoy that way."

Chicago's hockey people: Gino Cavallini

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
1:55
PM CT
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Gino CavalliniCourtesy of Gino CavalliniGino Cavallini is in his fifth year as hockey director for the Chicago Mission Youth Hockey Club.
This story is the second of a new series which will feature people in Chicago's hockey community

Former St. Louis Blues forward Gino Cavallini supports the Chicago Blackhawks, just don’t let his players on the Chicago Mission Youth Hockey Club find out.

“I did give a lot of blood for the Blues,” said Cavallini, who was involved in nine fights against the Blackhawks according to hockeyfights.com. “I cheer for the Hawks as much as anyone around. I wouldn’t admit that to the kids. They like to play up the Chicago-St. Louis rivalry.”

Whether it’s the Blues, who he played 454 of 593 career NHL games for, the Blackhawks or any other NHL team, Cavallini just enjoys watching good hockey these days. His only true allegiance lies with the Chicago Mission, the Woodridge, Ill.-based club, where he has been the hockey director for the last four-plus years.

“After going to college and turning pro, my brother [Paul Cavallini] and I always had hockey schools,” the 51-year-old Cavallini said. “I was always around hockey. We ran summer clinics and camps. I enjoyed giving back.

“This level of hockey, especially at our club at early ages, you can start projecting out what potential the kids have. I was fortunate to step into a position where we were trending up upward. It’s fun. It’s gratifying as director and coach myself to see the kids grow throughout the years.”

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Four Blackhawks highly rated in NHL 15

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
5:30
PM CT
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EA Sports released its top five players at each position throughout this past week for its upcoming NHL 15 release, and the Chicago Blackhawks' talent was again respected by the game’s makers.

Jonathan Toews tied with Pavel Datsyuk and Steven Stamkos for the second-highest-ranked center. All three players received a 93 overall rating and were just behind Sidney Crosby and his 96 rating.

EA Sports wrote of Toews, “Although the nickname Captain Serious holds up for Jonathan Toews, Mr. Everything is a better descriptor of what he actually brings to the ice every night. Whether it’s (95) rated Faceoffs, (93) Puck Control, or (89) Speed, Acceleration, and Agility – he really does do it all.”

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa both landed in the game’s top-5 ratings for right wingers. Hossa was second with a 91 overall rating, and Kane was fourth with an 89 overall rating.

“Hossa might not have the same star power as the other players on this list, but make no mistake, he is arguably the best all-round right winger in the game,” EA Sports’ description included. “With five-star ratings in Puck Skills, Senses, Skating, and Defense – Hossa does it all.”

Kane’s offensive game was also shown some love.

“Kane possesses one of the highest skill sets in the entire league with five star Puck Skills, Shooting, Skating, and Senses,” the description included. “His Puck Skills are elite with (94) Passing and Puck Control, (95) Hand-Eye, and (96) Deking. The only thing lacking in his game is Physical ability – coming in at only two and a half stars.”

Duncan Keith finished second with a 92 overall rating behind Shea Weber's 93 rating among the game’s defenseman ratings.

“Last year’s Norris Trophy winner lacks that huge physical element to his game, but makes up for it with 5 star Puck Skills, Senses, Skating and Defense attributes,” the game’s description included.

The Blackhawks had six players in the game’s top-50 ratings last year, with Toews (92 rating) at No. 7, Keith (90) at No. 12, Hossa (89) at No. 24, Brent Seabrook (89) at No. 31, Kane (88) at No. 35 and Patrick Sharp (88) at No. 45.

NHL 15 will be released on Sept. 9.

Justin Holl excited for chance with IceHogs

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
6:55
PM CT
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All Justin Holl sought after finishing his collegiate career at Minnesota was an opportunity to prove he could play professional hockey.

Holl, a defenseman, was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 draft and remained their prospect throughout his four seasons with the Gophers. When Holl became eligible to sign with the Blackhawks after his college season ended in April, the Blackhawks didn’t offer him an entry-level deal because they weren't completely sold on his development.

An agreement was finally worked out earlier this week, and Holl signed a one-year deal with the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate. It gives Holl a chance to further prove himself and the Blackhawks a chance to further evaluate him while having him under contract.

"It's a weight off my shoulders," Holl said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "The season ended, and we weren't really sure what type of contract was going to be offered, if any. It was a waiting game. It turned out well. I’m happy about it."

Blackhawks assistant general manager Norm Maciver said in March he wasn't sure if the organization was going to sign Holl. Maciver described Holl's senior season as solid and said Holl's defensive awareness had improved.

Holl helped the Gophers to a runner-up finish in the Frozen Four this past season. He had one goal, 12 assists, 63 blocks and had a plus-10 rating in 39 games during his senior season.

"I think they were happy where I was at," said Holl, who has been working out with Minnesota hockey alumni this summer. "I still have progress to make. They don’t think I'm most likely an NHL-caliber player now but still a good prospect.

"I think I’ve progressed. I think I had a good season last year. I’m happy about it. I can’t wait to get down to training camp for the Blackhawks. I just want to prove to myself and prove to everybody I’m good a player. It’s not just for them, but for myself. I enjoy doing well and playing well."

Holl's goal is still the NHL, but he's taking it one step at a time.

"My focus is to have a good year and see where it goes," Holl said.

Holl was among six players the Blackhawks took in the first 90 selections of the 2010 draft. Kevin Hayes, their first-round pick, will not likely sign before the Aug. 15 deadline and will become an unrestricted free agent. The Blackhawks chose not to sign forward Ludvig Rensfeldt, the No. 35 overall pick. Holl was selected at No. 54.

Goaltender Kent Simpson, who was drafted at No. 58, is under contract with the Blackhawks and played most of last season with the IceHogs. Defenseman Stephen Johns, who was drafted at No. 60, signed with the Blackhawks in March and finished the season with the IceHogs. Forward Joakim Nordstrom, who was drafted at No. 90, is also under contract with the Blackhawks and played in 16 NHL games last season.

Love of game still drives Hawks' Kane

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
4:36
PM CT
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Patrick KaneScott Powers, ESPNChicago.com Patrick Kane unveiled a renovated locker room to kids at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Ill.
CRESTWOOD, Ill. -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane is already an NHL veteran after seven seasons and he will soon enter his late 20s, but being around hockey still has a way of making him feel like a kid.

Kane especially felt that way Monday as he, along with Gatorade, unveiled a renovated locker room at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Ill. to 13- and 14-year-old players on the St. Jude Knights.

“I think the main thing for me is to come back and see the kids’ faces and see how excited they are,” Kane said. “Just walking in here and seeing them excited. It’s a special day for me just to come back and try to give back any way I can to the kids. St. Jude has a lot of hockey history and a lot of respect.

”[I remember from my childhood] it's just kind of surreal when you do meet a pro athlete that it’s actually happening. You look up to them like your role models and idols and probably something more than you probably should. It’s still exciting nonetheless, especially for young kids. Probably hits the heart most for me working with young kids whether they play hockey or not. It’s just exciting to see their faces and see their reaction when someone like yourself comes by and tries to give them any input or intake on how to help with anything. It’s special for me."

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U.S. camp to include Hawks, Illinois players

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
6:06
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The Chicago Blackhawks and the state of Illinois will be well-represented when the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp begins Saturday.

Four Blackhawks prospects, including one from Illinois, and two other Illinois players were among the 42 invitees to the eight-day camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The camp is used to help select a roster for the World Junior Championship in December.

Blackhawks prospect forwards Anthony Louis, who is from Winfield, Ill., Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz and John Hayden will participate in the camp. Illinois natives J.T. Compher, who is from Northbrook Ill. and is a Buffalo Sabres prospect, and Louis Belpedio, who is from Skokie, Ill. and is a Minnesota Wild prospect, will also attend the camp.

Louis, Hayden and Schmaltz played together on a line throughout the Blackhawks prospect camp last month and received praise from Blackhawks personnel. Louis, a 2013 sixth-round pick, will be a sophomore at Miami (Ohio) next season. Hayden, a 2013 third-round pick, will be a sophomore at Yale. Schmaltz, a 2014 first-round pick, will be a freshman at North Dakota. Motte was unable to attend the Blackhawks prospect camp and will be a sophomore at Michigan next season.

The U.S. players will be divided into two teams and will play teams from the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden during the camp. Blackhawks prospects Robin Norell and Carl Dahlstrom, both defensemen, will play for Sweden at the camp.

Chicago's hockey people: Markus Lehto

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
2:20
PM CT
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Markus LehtoCourtesy Markus Lehto As president of Acme World Sports, Markus Lehto (left) represents several hockey players, including Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen.
This story is the first of a new series which will feature people in Chicago's hockey community

CHICAGO -- The first hockey league Markus Lehto joined as a 7-year-old in Finland was made up of teams based off the NHL.

Some kids were placed on the Boston Bruins. Others were put on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lehto ended up on the Chicago Blackhawks.

Forty-plus years later, Lehto laughs when thinking about his first loose tie to Chicago. Since then, he’s solidified that connection.

Lehto’s first trip to the United States from Helsinki was to play for a Chicago traveling team as a teenager. Nearly 20 years after that, he and Bill Zito created Acme World Sports, a hockey agency, and placed an office in Chicago. It depends on the day now, but Lehto can either be found in the agency’s office in Chicago’s River West neighborhood, in their office in Finland or at any hockey rink in between.

“It’s a pretty funny coincidence,” Lehto said about his Chicago bond. “I first played on the Blackhawks, then midget hockey in Chicago and then have a Chicago-based business. Now it’s like a hometown.”

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Hawks' early '14-15 AHL lineup projections

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
11:13
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The Chicago Blackhawks might be as deep organizationally as they have been in some time. Following up on our NHL projections for the Blackhawks this season, here's how they could look at the AHL level with the Rockford IceHogs:

Projected lines
LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie -- C Teuvo Teravainen -- RW Mark McNeill
LW Garret Ross -- C Alex Broadhurst -- RW Joakim Nordstrom
LW Matt Carey -- C Phillip Danault -- RW Ryan Hartman
LW Drew LeBlanc -- C Dennis Rasmussen -- RW Cody Bass
Additional depth: Ryan Schnell (AHL contract)

Defenseman pairings
Klas Dahlbeck -- Stephen Johns
Viktor Svedberg -- Adam Clendening
Kyle Cumiskey -- Trevor van Riemsdyk
Additional depth: Mathieu Brisebois, Dillon Fournier, Zach Miskovic (AHL contract), Kirill Gotovets (AHL contract)

Projected goaltenders
No. 1 Scott Darling
No. 2 Kent Simpson
No. 3 Mac Carruth

Summary: The IceHogs were a young team last season and just missed the playoffs. That shouldn't be a problem this season. Even if they were to lose Teravainen, Nordstrom and a few of the defensemen to the NHL, they'll still have plenty of depth and experience. McNeill, Broadhurst, Ross, Danault and LeBlanc will be entering their second professional seasons. Hartman, their 2013 first-round pick, got a taste of the AHL late last season. Carey has a lot of upside after coming out of college early. Rasmussen, Labrie and Bass are experienced pros.

Defensively, the Blackhawks are loaded. Dahlbeck, Johns and Clendening are on the cusp of the NHL. Svedberg was playing well before he got hurt last season. Cumiskey, who has NHL experience, and van Riemsdyk could have gone to other organizations but chose the Blackhawks. Fournier and Brisebois are capable defensemen, as well.

As for the goaltending, the Blackhawks added a key piece to the IceHogs by signing Darling. He played in only 26 AHL games last season, but he had six shutouts. The IceHogs' goaltenders didn't record a single shutout last season. There's a good chance the Blackhawks will still add a two-way goaltender with NHL experience. Simpson and Carruth are still young and need time to develop.

Early Hawks' '14-'15 NHL lineup projections

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
10:50
AM CT
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Brad RichardsBruce Fedyck/USA TODAY SportsNewly-acquired Brad Richards figures to center the second line for the Hawks next season.
The Chicago Blackhawks still have to make a move or two before the season begins to get under the salary cap, so their roster will change in the near future. But let's take a glance at what the organization could look like at the NHL and AHL levels based on the current roster.

In the first of two parts, here are projections for the NHL level:

Projected lines
LW Patrick Sharp -- C Jonathan Toews -- RW Marian Hossa
LW Brandon Saad -- C Brad Richards -- RW Patrick Kane
LW Bryan Bickell -- C Andrew Shaw -- RW TBD (Jeremy Morin/Kris Versteeg)
LW TBD (Peter Regin/Brandon Mashinter/Morin/Versteeg) -- C Marcus Kruger -- RW Ben Smith

Projected defenseman pairings
Duncan Keith -- Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya -- Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy -- Michal Rozsival/David Rundblad

Projected goaltenders
No. 1 Corey Crawford
No. 2 Antti Raanta

Summary: The Blackhawks' top-6 forwards are easy to project. The unknowns come after that.

Bickell and Shaw are likely to remain on the third line, and it makes sense for Kruger and Smith to be on the fourth line again. It should be interesting to see who that final person is on each of those lines. You could make cases for Versteeg and Morin on the third line. Versteeg may not have had a tremendous playoff run, but he still played a top-9 role for much of last season. The Blackhawks are hopeful he'll be a different player after rehabbing his knee this offseason. Morin was promised a larger role when he re-signed in June, and he could be best suited for the third line with his offensive ability.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Morin
Derek Leung/Getty ImagesJeremy Morin was promised a larger role when he re-signed in June.
As for the fourth line, it all depends on what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants there. He normally likes having at least one player in his lineup who plays an enforcer role. He lost that when Brandon Bollig was traded this offseason. Mashinter could be the replacement there. If Quenneville is willing to use the best overall player, he could opt instead for Versteeg, Morin or Regin.

Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom could also be in the mix for spots, but it's hard to see where they fit in with so many one-way forwards on the roster now and with their cap situation. If the Blackhawks move a forward or two, Teravainen could start in the NHL. Quenneville was certainly impressed by him on the final day of the prospect camp. Teravainen could very well play a center or wing role on the third line to begin the season.

With the defensemen, there likely won't be many changes from last season. Keith-Seabrook and Oduya-Hjalmarsson will again be the top two pairs. Leddy should again be the mainstay as the fifth defenseman, and he'll likely have a rotating partner again. Rozsival should have a similar role to last season where he plays about half the games. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman traded a second-round pick for Rundblad, and Bowman expects him to be utilized more this season. The Blackhawks also have three prospects in Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns who are close to being NHL ready. If the Blackhawks move a defenseman or two, those players will likely be the first to get crack at the NHL. Kyle Cumiskey, who they recently signed, also has NHL experience.

Finally for the goaltenders, the Blackhawks will start the season as they ended the last one with Crawford as the No. 1 and Raanta as the No. 2. Raanta struggled in the backup role last season and will aim to be more consistent this season. The Blackhawks recently signed Scott Darling for some organizational depth at the position. Darling showed some promise last season in the AHL, but he doesn't have any NHL experience. The Blackhawks are still looking to add another two-way goaltender with NHL experience, according to a source.

Schmaltz leaves strong first impression

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
1:00
PM CT
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Nick SchmaltzBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe Blackhawks continue to be confident in their choice to draft Nick Schmaltz.
CHICAGO -- Nick Schmaltz may just be a future linemate for Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Schmaltz is only 18 years old and heading into his freshman year at North Dakota, so he won’t be joining the duo anytime soon. But with Kane and Toews signing their eight-year extensions and Schmaltz showing off some rare offensive ability at the Blackhawks prospect camp last week, it’s not a complete reach to envision Schmaltz complementing one of their lines down the line.

“He's got obvious top-six potential for sure if he pans out,” ESPN's NHL Draft and Prospects analyst Corey Pronman said of Schmaltz. “His puck skills and vision are the clear strengths of his game.”

Schmaltz displayed those skills throughout the six-day Blackhawks prospect camp last week. He made defenders miss with his stick-handling. He was able to create space and time for himself, but he also generated chances for his teammates with his deft moves. Alongside forwards John Hayden and Anthony Louis, Schmaltz had one goal and four assists over the camp’s first three scrimmages.

It’s that upside that motivated Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman to get on the phone during the NHL draft last month and negotiate a trade with the San Jose Sharks to be able to move up seven spots in the first round to draft Schmaltz. The Blackhawks gave up their 27th and 62nd picks to select Schmaltz.

“At the time I saw Nick Schmaltz play, I was very impressed with his skill set,” Bowman said at the Blackhawks convention last weekend. “He was a guy we had very highly ranked. You look at the potential that he has to fit in the way we play, and we were really excited. You can compare his skill set to a lot of players, but you look at what he was able to accomplish this year and the way our team plays, I think giving him some time to fill out his frame a little bit, he’s got those abilities you just can’t teach.”

Blackhawks amateur scouting director Mark Kelley did a majority of the evaluating of the 6-foot, 172-pound Schmaltz and had him high on the list of the offensively-skilled players in the NHL draft. One of Schmaltz’s skills especially stood out to Kelley.

“His hands, they’re fast,” Kelley said at the NHL draft.

Schmaltz isn’t a finished product, and that also attracted the Blackhawks to him. The Blackhawks weren’t looking for someone in the first round they could rush to the NHL. They sought someone with a high ceiling, but who would need time to get there.

Derek Lalonde coached Schmaltz for three seasons on the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League and believes Schmaltz fit exactly what the Blackhawks were searching for in the draft. Lalonde praised Schmaltz’s offensive game, especially his quick hands, but also pointed out his weaknesses.

“The quick hands Mark [Kelley] alluded to, you just don’t see it often,” Lalonde said in a recent phone interview. “You see it a little bit with Patrick Kane. I’m not going to compare him to Patrick. He’s a special world-class talent.

“But you think you’re going to defend it and get a stick on it, and all of a sudden he takes it away and make a play with it. He can create off any situation. He makes every player around him better. He has a high, high IQ.”

The occasional knocks on Schmaltz have been over his consistency and effort away from the puck. Those were areas Lalonde was sure Schmaltz would concentrate on in college.

“I’m really confident he was a top-6, top-7 talent this year, but it was his lack of consistency that dropped him to where he was,” Lalonde said. “It’s something he knows. I think he’s going to the perfect school at North Dakota. He’ll be held accountable. The good thing about Nick is he’s an elite talent. At the pro level, his evaluation is good. He’ll improve in those other areas.”

Schmaltz, a Wisconsin native and lifelong Blackhawks fan, was hopeful he began that process during the prospect camp.

“It was a great experience, a lot of new coaches and I learned a lot of new things,” Schmaltz said on the final day of the camp. “I've just got to work on all areas of my game and hopefully bring that to North Dakota, and just improve every day and every year.”

Hawks could accelerate college prospects

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
12:26
PM CT
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The Chicago Blackhawks are bursting at the seams as an organization with NHL-caliber players.

For the most part, that's a good situation to be in. But one of the potential issues has come to light this year. As seen in the case of Kevin Hayes, the Blackhawks' 2010 first-round draft pick, their prospects have the option of waiting out the period the organization owns their rights and when they can decide to become free agents.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hayes
Richard T Gagnon/Getty ImagesHobey Baker Award finalist Kevin Hayes is unlikely to sign with the Hawks by the Aug. 15 deadline.
The Blackhawks put a lot of time into working to develop Hayes over the past four-plus years, and it will be a disappointment for them if he doesn't sign, which is unlikely to happen before the Aug. 15 deadline. It will especially be frustrating for them if Hayes proves to be a capable NHL player.

One reason Hayes hasn't signed with the Blackhawks is because he doesn't see a place for himself in the NHL in the immediate future. Twenty-two years old and coming off a stellar senior season at Boston College, Hayes believes he can be in the NHL sooner rather than later. But with the talent the Blackhawks already have in the NHL and with more NHL-ready players waiting their turn in the AHL, Hayes would have to likely wait at least a season or two before he could be an everyday NHL player.

This may not be an issue going forward for the Blackhawks. It is uncommon for an organization's prospect to decline an entry-level contract and wait to become a free agent. Stephen Johns had the same option out of Notre Dame this year and signed with the Blackhawks.

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Who stood out at Hawks prospect camp

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
9:58
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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HaydenBrian A Killian/Getty ImagesJohn Hayden, a third-round pick in 2013, impressed Hawks GM Stan Bowman at prospect camp.

CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks wrapped up their annual prospect camp Friday. The camp entailed mostly skill work and practice for players under entry-level contracts, but unsigned prospects had a number of chances to compete throughout.

Here are some of those prospects who stood out during the six-day gathering at Johnny’s IceHouse West:

John Hayden, forward, third-round pick in 2013: Hayden made an impression with his size and offensive ability during the week, including on Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, who mentioned him first after the camp. Hayden is one of the Blackhawks’ bigger forward prospects at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He showed he has more than size, displaying some skating ability and a knack for scoring goals (four over three scrimmages). He’ll be a sophomore at Yale next season.

Nick Schmaltz, forward, first-round pick in 2014: Schmaltz hit the ice as a Blackhawks prospect for the first time since being drafted in June, and he didn’t disappoint. The 18-year-old Wisconsin native has some elite offensive skills. He has quick hands and knows how to create space for himself -- and turned in a handful of highlight plays during the week. If he continues to develop, it’ll be difficult for the Blackhawks to keep him in college for four years. He’s set to be a freshman at North Dakota next season.

Anthony Louis, forward, sixth-round pick in 2013: Louis could be one of those late-round steals for the Blackhawks. His size (5-7, 150 pounds) is always going to be questioned, but he’s a tremendous playmaker. He was on a line with Hayden and Schmaltz throughout the week, and there was magic at times between them. Louis created something out of nothing, and it often led to goals for his linemates during the camp. He’ll be a sophomore at Miami (Ohio) next season.

Nick Mattson, defenseman, sixth-round pick in 2010: Mattson was attending his fifth prospect camp and will likely have one more in his future. The Blackhawks have liked his development since they drafted when he was in the USHL. He caught people’s attention with his ability to maneuver with the puck and see the ice during the week. His defensive game has also improved over the years. He’ll return to North Dakota for his senior season.

Vince Hinostroza, forward, sixth-round pick in 2012: Hinostroza arrived to the camp late because of school obligations, but made up for it by the end of the week. He has taken some steps in his game since last season and put on some muscle. He was stronger with the puck and scored three goals over the final two scrimmages. He had a productive freshman season at Notre Dame, and the Blackhawks like where his game is headed. He’s set to return to the Fighting Irish for his sophomore campaign.

Michael Paliotta, defenseman, third-round pick in 2011: Paliotta is another defenseman who has been around the block a few times at the prospect camp and has made some strides. He has quality size at 6-3 and 198 pounds and can skate. He has more of a shutdown defenseman, but he does possess offensive ability. He scored a goal on a big shot from the blue line during the second scrimmage. He’ll be a senior at Vermont next season.

Robin Norell, defenseman, fourth-round pick in 2013: Norell looked further ahead than the organization’s other Swedish defensemen at the camp. He was solid all week. He was able handle the puck and be defensively responsible. He’s still only 19, but he’s coming along. He’s expected to play in Sweden again next season.

Beau Starrett, forward, third-round pick in 2014: Starrett can’t be missed as a 6-5 forward. He’s a long-term project and won’t even begin college until 2015, but he could be worth the wait. He displayed a powerful shot and scored twice during the scrimmages. He’s expected to play in the USHL next season.

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