Blackhawks

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

2019 Blackhawks development camp: Day 2 thoughts and takeaways

Here are several thoughts and takeaways from Day 2 of Blackhawks development camp at Fifth Third Arena:

1. Why Alex Nylander wanted to be at camp

The Blackhawks invited 37 prospects to development camp. Only one of them has NHL experience and that's Nylander, who was a late addition after he was acquired from Buffalo for Henri Jokiharju.

Nylander has been one of the standouts so far, and rightfully so. He's supremely gifted and is ahead of the curve in comparison to some of the other prospects attending. But he's behind on his own development curve, and the Blackhawks wanted to see him on the ice this week because he's going to be one of the players in the mix for an everyday roster spot when training camp rolls around.

While it may have been unexpected to see Nylander's name on the prospect camp list because it feels like he's been around forever, he was all for getting a headstart despite not participating in the Sabres' development camp the week after the NHL Draft.

"I mean, I just got traded here," Nylander said. "I wanted to meet everybody and get on the ice. It’s been a couple of months since I was on the ice, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to come here, show what I’ve done in training through the summer and I can get even better toward training camp. I just didn’t need to go to Buffalo’s camp."

2. Ripple effects of Artem Anisimov trade

The Blackhawks made a trade in the middle of camp on Tuesday, with Anisimov going to Ottawa in exchange for power forward Zack Smith. It's a move that cleared $1.3 million in cap space for the Blackhawks, but also opened the door for somebody to snatch up that third-line center role.

Kirby Dach, anyone?

GM Stan Bowman mentioned Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith as guys who have experience playing center but didn't single anyone out as a potential leading candidate to fill Anisimov's shoes in the third-line center role. One of those four figures to secure the fourth-line center position, which will likely be Carpenter or Kampf — perhaps we could see situational faceoffs between them with Carpenter a right-handed shot and Kampf a lefty.

It truly does feel like the third-line center position is up for grabs, and the Blackhawks don't seem to mind it that way. Bowman said Dach could very well be part of the group, and it's difficult not to wonder whether the No. 3 overall pick has a fair chance of making it.

"We have quite a few potential options there to play in the middle," Bowman said. "It’s hard to map out some lines and who is going to be in what spot but I think we have different looks that we can throw at the other team. Part of training camp is going to be to find out where does everybody fit and which combinations work best."

Other notes:

— Chris Kunitz has been sitting with the Blackhawks front office contingent observing camp. He hasn't announced what his future holds, but if he's ready to call it quits on his playing career, it wouldn't be surprising to see the organization bring him on in some capacity.

— Alexis Gravel made his camp debut on Tuesday. He did not participate in on-ice sessions on Monday because he wasn't medically cleared to do so.

— Tim Soderlund was listed on the prospect camp roster but has been absent for the first two days because of visa issues. It's unclear whether that will get resolved before camp wraps up on Friday.

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Why Dominik Kubalik could be Blackhawks' breakout candidate in 2019-20

Why Dominik Kubalik could be Blackhawks' breakout candidate in 2019-20

Dominik Kubalik is somebody the Blackhawks have had their eye on for a while now. And he very well could be the team's breakout candidate for the 2019-20 season.

Drafted in the seventh round (No. 191 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft by Los Angeles, the Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights in January for a fifth-round pick. They signed him to a one-year, $925,000 deal in May.

But even before that, the Blackhawks knew he would play a role for them this upcoming season.

"Dominik Kubalik, he is someone we expect to have a similar impact [as Dominik Kahun] next year," GM Stan Bowman said in April. "A dynamic offensive player, he's got size and speed, can score. We’re hoping he can come in and we're expecting him to be on the team and where he fits is going to be a question. We'll see where it plays out, but I expect him to be an offensive player for us."

Kubalik was named MVP of the top tier hockey league in Switzerland after finishing first with 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) in 50 games, and adding one goal and five assists in five playoff games. He also stood out at the 2019 IIHF World Championship for the Czech Republic after compiling 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games. 

"He’s probably as advertised," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Going to be somewhat of an adjustment for him. He hasn’t played in North America before, so that’s good. But it’s still going to take some practices and games. So he’s another guy, excited to get him playing and see how it plays out."

Kubalik certainly strengthened his case of making the 23-man roster in his preseason debut on Tuesday against the Red Wings when he scored two goals and recorded five shots on goal. He's a player that likes to shoot, and his second goal in Detroit showed how heavy and deceptive of a shot he has.

"I think I'm playing pretty simple," Kubalik said. "I don't want to handle the puck for a while, I just want to put it as quick as possible to the net. If there's a chance to shoot I'm just going to take it. And I'm trying to use my speed, so those two are probably my biggest strengths." 

Similar to what they did with Kahun last season, it's easy to see a scenario where the Blackhawks give Kubalik a shot in the top-six right away. Obviously, he has to earn his spot, but there's real offensive upside and he could work well with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and even be a threat on the power play.

Put that all together and Kubalik gives the Blackhawks some legitimate options on offense, which could be key for a team that relied so heavily on their top guys last season and didn't get enough scoring from their depth players.

"Obviously everything is pretty new," Kubalik said. "I'm just trying to get used to it as quick as possible. But I feel great. ... I'm feeling more and more comfortable and that's great. I hope it's going to continue."

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Four takeaways: Blackhawks fall to Red Wings, but there were plenty of positives

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 preseason loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday:

1. Dominik Kubalik's big night

The Blackhawks acquired Kubalik's rights from the Los Angeles Kings in January for a fifth-round pick. And this could end up looking like a steal when it's all said and done.

GM Stan Bowman said in April that he expects Kubalik to be a solid offensive player for the Blackhawks this season, and the 24-year-old Czech native showed why.

Kubalik found the back of the net twice in his preseason debut, with the second one displaying his absolute rocket of a shot. That's his strength and he's going to be a player to watch for the Blackhawks this season and someone who certainly helped his case as the team looks to finalize its Opening Night roster in the coming weeks.

2. Hello, Philip Holm

The Blackhawks made a low-key signing in August when they agreed to a one-year deal with Holm, a 27-year-old Swedish defenseman who spent the 2018-19 season in the KHL. He might've been the most noticeable player on the ice in Detroit.

Holm scored a goal, added an assist, and led all skaters with 11 shot attempts (six on goal). He also registered a hit and one takeaway, and logged a game-high 21:58 of ice time. Add him to the list of guys who find themselves among the pool of players vying for everyday roster spots.

3. Robin Lehner and Kevin Lankinen split duties

Collin Delia started and finished the preseason opener in Washington, and the plan was for Lehner to do the same in Detroit but the coaching staff called an audible and decided to share the duties between he and Lankinen.

Lehner started the game and was sharp early on before allowing a goal to Red Wings forward Matt Puempel, which Lehner would've liked to have back. The second goal was a fluky one that was put in by his own player. There was nothing Lehner could do. He stopped 15 of 17 shots for a save percentage of .882, but overall it was a successful debut.

Lankinen replaced Lehner near the halfway mark of the second period and he was immediately tested. He faced 10 shots in the first 7:08, which included a Red Wings power play. Lankinen gave up two goals on 21 shots and finished with a .905 save percentage. He was good.

4. DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw trio effective

The Red Wings didn't dress any of their top players so this should be taken with a grain of salt, but the line of Alex DeBrincat, Andrew Shaw and Dylan Strome showed some good chemistry together. Shaw and Strome each recorded an assist, and the trio generated three scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

DeBrincat, Shaw and Strome were also on the first power play unit together and recorded eight shot attempts (four on goal) and were on the ice for Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game up at 3-3.

Note: DeBrincat had an injury scare in the final seconds of the first period when he got the worst of a knee-on-knee collison. He wasn't on the bench to start the second period, but he only missed a shift before returning.

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