Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity


Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity

The Blackhawks changes, be it those that have already happened or those that could still occur, have been watched by many.

Other NHL teams, including those they’ve traded with, have been watching. The media has been watching. And prospects in the system have certainly been watching.

Being a Blackhawks prospect hasn’t been easy these last few years: the Blackhawks have been deep and, outside of the summer of 2010, haven’t had massive roster changes. Well this summer has meant big changes again, be it trades (Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, and possibly others before summer’s end) or free agents going elsewhere (Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and possibly Johnny Oduya).

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Bigger opportunities are going to be there come autumn, and several Blackhawks prospects have noticed.

“There’s definitely opportunity. I know that and you guys know that. So you definitely want to work hard,” forward Kyle Baun said. “I think there are spots available that are up for grabs, and with multiple players and there’s competition there. There’s motivation to know that they’re going to take a serious look at me and a few other guys.”

Two who are looking to take advantage of the opportunity, Baun and Mark McNeill, are at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this week. But there are others. Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman each played some last season and the two also spent the postseason with the Blackhawks as their Black Aces. Coach Joel Quenneville called Danault, who played twice in November, “tenacious.” Hartman, whose NHL debut in February began with a memorable hit on New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus, also made a good impression.

The competition will be fierce but prospects are ready for it, even if some didn’t want to talk too much about it.

“I'm just going to say it's an opportunity, you know?” McNeill said. “I'm really excited about it. It's gonna take a lot of hard work, but I've got to be ready to go when camp comes around.”

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Baun, who played three games with the Blackhawks, also garnered notice in a short amount of time; in the team’s exit interviews last month, Quenneville talked of Baun’s potential this season.

“He talked to me briefly,” Baun said. “[He] said he liked what I brought and expected me to have a big summer and to come ready for trainingcamp, were basically his words.”

Blackhawks prospects heading to training camp should always be ready for it. But they may be even that much more prepared for this one. There are big opportunities this season, big chances to make the team that haven’t been there in the recent past.

“At the end of the day it comes down to me trying to be the best player I can. That’s all I can really do,” Baun said. “At the end of the day, if I’m good enough I’m going to be there, if not I guess I won’t be there. All I can really do is work on my own game and not pay too, too much attention to [the changes], although it is interesting to follow.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: