Jake Randolph wasn’t sure whether he should answer the phone or not, given it wasn’t a number he recognized.
“I almost ignored the call because I thought it was the usual telemarketer,” Randolph said with a laugh.
Randolph did answer it, however, and the “sales pitch” was an easy one for him to take: it was Ron Anderson, the Blackhawks’ director of player recruitment, inviting Randolph to the team’s prospect camp.
Undrafted players are part of a lot of prospect camps, and Randolph is one of 24 attending the Blackhawks’ one. For he and others, it’s a chance to hone some skills, to get some midsummer work in that can benefit them again come the fall or hope it leads to more opportunity – or a look – down the line.
James Sanchez, who hails from nearby Northbrook, is participating in his second camp in the past week. He was part of the Arizona Coyotes’ camp, which ran from July 4-8. Other than working through somewhat tired legs, he’s seeing the benefits of both camps.
“It’s surreal seeing the best of both worlds, seeing how they do it at different camps,” Sanchez said. “It’s an intense camp and an honor to be here.”
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Jimmy Schuldt and his St. Cloud State teammates were playing at the University of Nebraska-Omaha when Anderson invited him to camp. He’s been to several prospect camps in the past but this one with the Blackhawks, his first, was an eye opener.
“The skill level here was really high compared to the other ones, and it’s been a really good experience overall,” he said. “[I was invited] in the middle of the season, so you’re not really thinking about it too much because you’re focused on the season. But once summer came, I was excited to come out here.”
Randolph (Nebraska-Omaha), Sanchez (University of Michigan) and Schuldt are returning to their respective schools this fall. Same goes for fellow invitee Sam Piazza of nearby Darien, who also goes to Michigan. They’ll all take lessons learned from this week back with them.
“You get direct exposure to all the NHL guys, which is phenomenal. You get to see what an NHL program looks like, and the Blackhawks is one of the best so it was a pleasure to be around it,” Piazza said. “The coaches on the bench will give you tips on how to play a little bit. It’s more wide open here than in school, so you’re just working hard and doing the best you can.”
“There are a lot of little coaching tips you don’t think about. Not that my coach isn’t good at St. Cloud; he’s phenomenal. But [you] get another perspective, more eyes on me and breaking down my game further. That helps,” Schuldt said. “Little habits I formed over the past few days I’ll carry over to my season and hopefully help my team.”
Most of the camp invitees wrapped up their time here with Wednesday’s scrimmage. It’s been a good week of working and learning, and definitely worth answering that call.
“It’s a great experience,” Randolph said. “This is my first at an NHL camp and what better organization than the Blackhawks, so it’s been a lot of fun.”