John Hayden knew the situation entering this training camp: he was one of several young players looking for an opportunity with a Blackhawks team that, after some offseason signings, didn’t have a lot of spots available.
“I mean, since I got here I knew it’d be competitive. I’ve just tried to control what I can and that’s my play,” Hayden said on Friday. “I just have to work hard and feel more comfortable and understand the game a little better each day.”
Hayden has worked hard, having one of the standout camps that coach Joel Quenneville has mentioned on a regular basis. In a few days the Blackhawks will make their final cuts and it’s still a question whether or not Hayden will be among them. But considering what he’s done to this point, the Blackhawks seriously need to consider starting the season with him in Chicago.
“He looks like he’s working his tail off every single day. Every single shift is important to him,” Quenneville said. “He’s got the attitude you’re hoping for a guy who’s looking to make a roster spot or taking a roster spot and showing he’ll do whatever it takes. He continues to do it.”
Hayden was part of the Blackhawks’ fourth line on Friday, and if that holds tomorrow he’ll get one last preseason game for an audition. Obviously the Blackhawks aren’t totally new to him. Hayden got several games in last spring after finishing up his senior season at Yale. But it was all new to him there were some up and down moments and he was balancing a little schoolwork along with his pro hockey debut. Hayden recognized what he needed to improve and did so this summer, working with Ben Prentiss, who has trained pro hockey players for nearly two decades.
“What’s great about that gym is they’re always giving us new things to work on, new philosophies. There are always new developments as far as nutrition. Same goes for strength and conditioning. I was fortunate to work at that gym,” Hayden said. “It’s really about keeping up to the pace of this game. It’s so fast at this level.”
Alex DeBrincat looks like he’s carved out a spot on this team; he’s transitioned very well to the pro game and right now could be getting an opportunity. Hayden should get a chance as well. The Blackhawks could benefit from his size, physical play and scoring touch in the bottom six of the lineup. Hayden knew it was going to be tough to make this roster, but as of now it looks like he’s done everything to make it.
“You just control what you can and that’s my play, I put the work in for the offseason and now I have to play my game,” Hayden said. “At the end of the day there’s opportunity here. That’s the motivation.”