Blackhawks

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Which Hawks have impressed most during five-game win streak?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Which Hawks have impressed most during five-game win streak?

On this episode of the Blackhawks Talk Pat Boyle is joined by Jamal Mayers and Brian Campbell. The guys discuss which Blackhawks are on the top of their game. Patrick Kane is certainly on the list after he scored two goals against the Wild, and Corey Crawford has been lights out since his return from injury.

Plus, If Erik Karlsson is on the trade block, how aggressive should Hawks be in acquiring him?

Listen to the full episode of the podcast at this link or in the embedded player below:

As Patrick Kane approaches 300 career goals, Jeremy Roenick says he will be best Blackhawk ever

As Patrick Kane approaches 300 career goals, Jeremy Roenick says he will be best Blackhawk ever

Patrick Kane's career to this point has already cemented him as one of the best Blackhawks ever, but former Blackhawk Jeremy Roenick thinks Kane will stand alone in Blackhawk history by the time he hangs up the skates.

Roenick made a guest appearance on Intermission Live during the first intermission of Sunday's 4-1 Blackhawks win against the Wild, a game in which Kane scored two goals to bring his career total to 299 and move into fifth place in Blackhawks history in goal scored. During the interview, Roenick had plenty of praise for No. 88.

Host Pat Boyle told Roenick that Denis Savard thinks Kane will be the best Blackhawk ever and Roenick agreed.

"I say 100 percent of that," Roenick said. "I say that only because you look at the dynamics of the way this guy plays, you see the way he scares the bejeezes out of other defensemen on other teams, three Stanley Cups, the points that he's putting up, he's going to go down as the best American with Mike Modano."

Kane scored a goal in each of the first two periods on Sunday to give the Blackhawks a fifth straight win. He has 14 goals and 20 assists this season to lead the Blackhawks in both categories. The milestones are falling and more are approaching. Not only is Kane one goal away from 300 for his career, but he is approaching 500 career assists (currently at 487) and 800 career points (currently at 786). He's 29 and showing no sign of slowing down so the milestones should continue to fall, thus making Roenick's argument that he could finish his career as the best ever.

Roenick's predictions didn't stop there. He continued to say Kane and Toews will be honored in another way.

"He's going to have a statue, along with Jonathan Toews, out there on Madison Avenue at one point in their careers, in their lives," Roenick said. "It's well deserved because they really took this organization that was sputtering and have turned it into the best organization in all of sports. They deserve a lot of credit and they will go down as one of the best Hawks ever."

See the video above to watch Roenick's comments.