The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.
Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready?
Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.
While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.
"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."
Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."
Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."
The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.
Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.
For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.
"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.
Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.
"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."
That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.