Michal Kempny ready to chase NHL dream with Blackhawks

Michal Kempny ready to chase NHL dream with Blackhawks

Michal Kempny didn’t want to discuss what the Blackhawks have said his role will be this coming season, but he knows where he wants to be.

“I’m here to prove that I’m here to play in the NHL, because it was my dream for so long,” Kempny said through translator Igor Alfimov. “So I’m here to work myself to the A team.”

Kempny, a Czech defenseman who enters this season with much fanfare, participated in his first day of Blackhawks prospect camp on Tuesday. For Kempny, there will be plenty of adjustments. The 25-year-old speaks little English and will be adjusting to the North American game. Still, Kempny could be another Artemi Panarin, making the on-ice transition fast and helping the Blackhawks right away.

“I think Chicago likes defensemen who skate a lot and who are very creative, and I think that’s my style,” Alfimov said for Kempny. “I’m very glad I can contribute to that style.”

The Blackhawks are hoping that’s the case. The team bolstered its defense on July 1 when they welcomed back Brian Campbell on a one-year deal. The Blackhawks missed having that fourth veteran defenseman last season after Johnny Oduya signed with the Dallas Stars, and it showed. But the Blackhawks will still be looking for others to step up or break through, and that includes Kempny.

General manager Stan Bowman was complimentary of Kempny but knows everything is new to him and there might be an adjustment period. Having fellow Czech Michal Rozsival in the room should also help Kempny, who said he’s currently working with tutors to improve his English.

Now to see how quickly he adjusts on the ice. Kempny spent last season in the KHL, where he had five goals and 16 assists and was a plus-18 in 59 games with Avangard Omsk. Kempny has done well overseas but wanted to take the next step. Where better to do that than in the NHL and with the Blackhawks, who were one of several suitors vying for Kempny.

“There were some offers, but I was aware that I was followed by the Blackhawks for a while,” he said. “I kind of decided that if the offer would come I would definitely agree.”

Kempny is ready to see what he can do on this side of the pond. It will be an adjustment, for sure. But he’s with a team that has a strong top-four veteran defenseman presence once again so there won’t be a ton of pressure on him right away. But if he can make an impact immediately, all the better.

“I’m basically start thinking about hockey differently, working on myself a lot,” he said. “There’s a goal that you need to set for yourself, and you need to follow them. And without the hard work, there is no reward.”

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: