Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Nick Mattson prepping for jump to Rockford

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Blackhawks: Nick Mattson prepping for jump to Rockford

Nick Mattson doesn’t know what to expect when he gets to Rockford this fall but he had plenty of brains to pick on the subject this week.

“I’ve been asking them all how it is. They all say it’s one of the best places to go,” Mattson said. “It sounds like a great spot. I’m definitely excited to get the rest of the summer wrapped up and get there.”

Mattson signed a one-year contract with the IceHogs last month, not long after he wrapped up his four-year collegiate hockey career at the University of North Dakota. For Mattson, who was drafted 180th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Draft, the AHL, that first season of professional hockey, will be exciting. It’ll also be a little daunting.

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“It’ll be interesting right away, just getting acclimated to everything,” Mattson said. “It’s a new step in life, and I have no idea what it’s like, so it’ll be fun. I can’t predict anything because I don’t know what to expect. But I’m excited.”

Mattson’s anticipation level was high to start his senior year at North Dakota as well. The beginning wasn’t so great, however, as he was scratched several games. But once Mattson got back into the lineup he had a strong season; the senior recorded four goals and 17 assists in 33 games. Mattson said a changed mindset led to a good finish.

“Once I learned how to put all the distractions out of my head I just had fun and played,” he said. “Once you clear your head, do what you can do, it’s a lot different game; it’s a lot more fun. Once you start having fun, you can play a lot better.”

Mattson’s been to a few of the Blackhawks’ prospect camps, and he’s treating this one as he has the others: it’s a chance to show the Blackhawks brass what he can do, especially now that he’ll be joining their AHL affiliate. Still, having not played since April, this week isn’t easy.

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“It’s tough jumping out here in the middle of summer but it’s been cool,” Mattson said. “You really learn a lot in the drills they do and the coaches they have helping you are top notch. You just try to soak in as much as you can and hopefully survive. It’s pretty tough.”

Mattson is preparing for the next step in his career. Playing four years of college hockey was a great learning experience. He doesn’t know what to expect in Rockford, but he hopes to apply those college hockey lessons during his first professional season.

“It was a blast, so much fun,” Mattson said. “As much as you get better at hockey and college, you grow as a person; anyone who’s ever been to college knows that. It was a really good four years and I’m grateful for the experience.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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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?

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USA TODAY

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: