SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Here are some observations from the four days of the Chicago Blackhawks training camp at Notre Dame:
Brandon Saad looked more comfortable playing center as the week went along. Early in the week he often glided to the left side of the rink and was getting ahead of the play. By Sunday he was waiting for the puck and skating down the middle of the ice. He’s also looking to distribute more and had a couple impressive passes. Faceoffs will be a work in progress for him, and he has to get more repetitions in.
Duncan Keith appeared to have some aggression to get out the past few days. He went all out on Ben Smith in a fight on Saturday. He was on the verge of another fight with Jimmy Hayes on Sunday. He knocked Hayes in the face wearing his glove, and the two had to be separated. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville downplayed both incidents, but they did seem out of the ordinary.
Hayes had to put himself in a good position for a roster spot with his play over the last three days. He’s got a big frame, but he also has a lot of speed and quickness. He was often around the puck and created a number of scoring chances. He scored goals on Saturday and Sunday.
Among the Blackhawks’ prospects, only a few may have earned themselves a roster spot in the camp. Hayes is probably one of them. Brandon Pirri may be another. It sounds like Brandon Bollig has a place on the team. Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith had their moments in camp, but they may have to show more in the preseason games. Kyle Beach was noticeable at times.
Patrick Kane is known as a fast starter, and he looks primed for that again. He scored goals on all three days of the scrimmages.
Teuvo Teravainen is ready for the NHL now. He might even be ready to be the Blackhawks’ second-line center now. He was strong with the puck, created for himself and his teammates, was quick with his stick and often stole or poked away the puck and held his own on faceoffs. He’s going back to Finland, but he could be playing with the Blackhawks as early as April.
Marian Hossa's back appears to be just fine. He looked like his old self and was active throughout the scrimmages. He and Patrick Sharp connected with each other on a few goals. Sharp’s shoulder seems to be good, too.
Defensemen Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Sheldon Brookbank and Keith all performed as expected throughout training camp. Along with prospects Ryan Stanton and Adam Clendening, you can also count Theo Peckham and Michael Kostka as defensemen who could see NHL playing time this season. Peckham and Kostka seem to be reliable in the back.
Drew LeBlanc's vision on the ice is special. He made some eye-opening passes to set up teammates all week. LeBlanc will likely start the season in the AHL, but he’s another player who could see eventually see NHL time. Mark McNeil and Philip Danault will also likely be headed to Rockford to begin the season. Both could use some more seasoning.
Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t look like a 40-year-old goaltender in the scrimmages. It was a small sample size, but Khabibulin was hard to beat all week. Quenneville said he was also impressed by Khabibulin’s fitness level.
Maxim Shalunov has a big shot. He showed off his power on a few occasions in the camp. He’ll need to work on his consistency to someday play with the Blackhawks, but you could see his potential.
Blackhawks 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman didn’t look out of place in his first experiences with the pros. He contributed offensively and wasn’t afraid to lay hits into the veterans.
They’re not going to make the team, but Brad Mills, Brandon Whitney, Pat Mullane, Klas Dahlbeck, Brad Winchester, Travis Brown and Terry Broadhurst did a few things where you definitely noticed them. Goaltenders Antti Raanta, Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth had their share of quality saves. It should be a healthy competition between the trio for net time in Rockford.