Blackhawks

Alex Nylander making strong first impression, but will he start 2019-20 season with Blackhawks?

Alex Nylander making strong first impression, but will he start 2019-20 season with Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks are a team that likes to take chances on young players who were highly regarded coming out of their draft but have underachieved to start their professional careers.

Take Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome for example. Both of them are former first-round picks, with Strome being drafted No. 3 overall in 2015. 

Alex Nylander is somebody who falls under this category. Taken No. 8 overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, he put up decent numbers in the AHL but couldn’t take that next step in the NHL and hasn’t been able to stick. He's trying to change that in Chicago after being acquired by the organization in the summer for Henri Jokiharju.

"I'm just trying to work hard every shift, be consistent out there and just play my game," Nylander said. "Make plays and be good defensively as well."

Nylander has been a standout in Blackhawks training camp so far. He shined in Sunday’s team scrimmage at the United Center by scoring a highlight-reel penalty shot goal and followed that up with a multi-point effort in his preseason debut on Monday, scoring a goal and adding an assist against Washington.

It's the consistency and how he plays when he doesn't have the puck that's going to determine whether he sticks with the big club and ultimately thrives.

"I just think learning how to play at a higher pace away from the puck," Jeremy Colliton said. "He is a good skater. He can fly. You can see when he's hunting, he's on offense, he can really skate. We're going to want him to show us that persistence away from the puck to try and get it back. Obviously when his teammates have the puck (or) when he has the puck — when he's on offense — he's a terrific player. He can be a real asset for us. So we want him to put himself in those situations as much as he can."

There are legitimately eight or nine forwards that are competing for the two or three roster spots on Opening Night. Nylander is one of them. He has such an elite offensive skillset that it's hard to ignore him for one of them, and he's probably better off playing with guys who think the game the same way.

"He can make a lot of plays and he can see the ice as offensive players do," Colliton said. "He's got a great shot, great release. ... Having said that, for him, the more versatile he can show that he can be then it gives us more options and different places to fit him into the lineup. It's a lot easier to make the team. So he'll probably move around here as we go through preseason and see if there's a fit."

While Nylander, in the big picture, is simply competing for a spot on the 23-man roster, he also finds himself battling for a role within the team in the process. But he's not looking that far ahead.

"I'm just trying to do my best out here and take whatever is given to me," Nylander said. "Just do good, play my game and good things will happen I think. I've just been working really hard this summer and I'm trying to take that with me from the past three years in Buffalo and try to be the best player I can be.”

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Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

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USA Today

Blackhawks make minor league trade with Panthers, acquire defenseman Ian McCoshen

The Blackhawks have acquired defenseman Ian McCoshen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward prospect Aleksi Saarela, the team announced Tuesday. He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

McCoshen is on a one-year contract that runs through the end of the 2019-20 season. His cap hit is $700,000 and he's set to become a restricted free agent.

Originally drafted by the Panthers in the second round (No. 31 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, McCoshen has appeared in 60 career NHL games and has seven points (four goals, three assists) and an ice time average of 14:26 per game. He has four assists in seven games with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL this season.

The motive behind the move appears to be giving each player a fresh start elsewhere, although Saarela's time with the Blackhawks was short-lived. He was acquired by the Blackhawks in June, along with Calvin de Haan, for goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling and had one assist in five games with the Rockford IceHogs.

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Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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