Blackhawks

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 1 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 1 thoughts and takeaways

Here are four thoughts and takeaways from Day 1 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. All eyes on Kirby Dach

There are a ton of storylines to follow at Blackhawks prospect camp, and the main focus on Day 1 was getting a first look at their No. 3 overall pick. The Blackhawks signed Dach to an entry-level contract a week ago, which was Step 1 in the housekeeping department of his development process. Monday was the first deadline for teams to sign 2019 draft picks.

The next step is seeing where Dach compares to the other prospects in the pipeline. Drafted third overall, he clearly jumps to the top in terms of talent level. It's where he's at in his development curve that will be something to monitor between now and training camp.

The Blackhawks have said all along that they're going to give Dach every chance to make the roster out of training camp, and Dach himself said immediately after he was drafted that that's a goal of his also. He wants to make the decision difficult on the management and coaching staff, and if he feels any pressure to perform this week, it's not going to be because of the organization.

"I think the biggest pressure is going to come from myself," Dach said. "I know that kind of stature of being the third overall pick there's going to be some pressure behind it but I kind of just flush it out. The only pressure that's going to come from my performance is going to be myself because I know how good I can be every day and I need to strive for that excellence."

2. Where will Adam Boqvist play next season?

While all eyes may have been on Dach, there was almost as much attention on Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. When he got drafted a year ago, Boqvist said he felt like he was still 2-3 years ago from being a full-time NHL player.

But things can change. We saw it last September when his strong training camp gave the organization something to think about when trimming their roster to 23 players. Boqvist admitted Monday that he even surprised himself.

The Swedish blue liner spent the past season with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, where he emerged as one of the top offensive defenseman in the league. He had a stellar postseason run, and played a large role on the team as an 18-year-old.

But it appears Boqvist has his eyes set on turning pro and doing so as quickly as possible.

"Of course I want to play in the NHL but we'll see," Boqvist said. "I want to turn pro quick and I think I'm pretty ready for that. ... I'm just trying to go out there and show them that I want to be on the team and everything, do my best every day."

3. Where things stand with Ian Mitchell

After Denver's season ended in April, there seemed to be an assumption among Blackhawks fans that it was only a matter of time before Mitchell signed an entry-level contract. But that wasn't exactly the case. 

One month later, Mitchell announced that he would be returning to Denver for his junior season and the school named him team captain. It immediately sparked some concern among the Chicago fanbase, wondering what that could mean for his future with the Blackhawks.

It's because their memory is still fresh from 2014, when Kevin Hayes, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round (No. 24 overall) in 2010, decided not to sign with the team and became an unrestricted after four years in college.

"Which is, of course, understandable, but that's not my intention whatsoever," Mitchell said. "I just want to make it known that my intentions are to sign with the Blackhawks, 100 percent. It's just I'll be going back for one more year. I don't want people to think I may be bailing because loyalty is very important to me and that's why I'm going back to Denver, but that's also why I want to sign with the Blackhawks. They've been great to me."

Mitchell, who was selected in the second round (No. 57 overall) in 2017, understands why this has been a topic of conversation and knows the fans want nothing more than for their team to succeed. But so does Mitchell, and he expects to be part of the Blackhawks' long-term plans. It just won't be until at least the 2020-21 season.

"I'm sure I'll talk to the organization this week, but I think it'd be very difficult to change my decision based on my teammates are expecting me back," Mitchell said. "I've been named the captain of Denver hockey so I just think that to leave my teammates in that spot, that'd be very difficult for me. I just feel like another year is going to be very beneficial for me. Getting that one year, more seasoned, I think I've developed a great amount in my first two years and I don't think the third year will be any different. Also pushing myself and playing big-time minutes so I'm excited about it."

4. Evan Barratt update

One of the prospects who took a significant step in their development this past season is Barratt, who finished fourth in points-per-game (1.34) among all NCAA Division I skaters. He scored 16 goals and added 27 assists in 32 games for Penn State, which was a 25-point improvement from a year ago.

And the Blackhawks' third-round pick in 2017 did this while dealing with a nagging right hip injury that he eventually had surgery on in April.

Barratt is three months into the recovery process and started skating a couple weeks ago, but he won't be participating in any on-ice workouts this week. He expects to be cleared for action in October, right around the time he begins his junior season at Penn State.

"It definitely stings a little bit," Barratt said of being restricted to off-ice workouts. "It's been a long summer so far and having to deal with it has definitely taught me a lot of things. You can always learn from watching and just being around guys and the coaches. I'm not looking at it as a setback, but definitely as a learning experience as I go into the future."

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What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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