Here are 10 notes, thoughts and takeaways from Day 2 of Blackhawks training camp at Fifth Third Arena:
1. After scoring only 18 goals in 70 games during the 2019-20 season, Alex DeBrincat made it a priority to work on his shot in that next offseason to get back on track in the goal-scoring department. He bounced back with a 32-goal campaign in only 52 games last season, and he's quickly emerging as one of the premier two-way wingers in the game.
So what did DeBrincat work on over this offseason to become an even better all-around player?
"Still working on my shot," he said. "I think my skating; I want to be able to handle the puck, maybe that extra second, fend off some defenders and be able to make that play. That’s something I need to add to my game, so definitely worked on that a bit. Obviously a lot of other things, too, but that was the two biggest things."
2. DeBrincat said he and some of his teammates found out about the Marc-Andre Fleury acquisition immediately after coming off the ice at Fifth Third Arena for an offseason skate. He saw the news on Twitter, and you can imagine the reaction inside the locker room.
"That was pretty exciting, obviously to have a guy of that caliber come here, is pretty cool," he said. "It’s been fun playing with him so far. It’ll be cool to have the full season with him."
3. One thing you'll notice about Fleury during practice is that he never gives up on a puck. You could think the play is dead, but until Fleury swats it away is when it's officially official.
"He’s so competitive," DeBrincat said. "Just the way he battles. He doesn’t give up on pucks, even if it’s going to be an empty net, he’s diving over to stop it. I think that’s what makes him so great. I’m sure you guys all saw the video this summer, on those kids he’s still battling after 5-6 shots. I think that’s really fun and he’s having fun out there. It’s cool to see. Makes you want to score on him that much more."
4. Fleury said one of the players that's had his number over the years in Patrick Kane, especially in shootouts. Kane downplayed that on Thursday by admitting "he's gotten my number a bunch of times as well."
So how are the practice battles going between the two so far?
"It's good, I like it," Fleury said. "He's such a good shooter and deceiving. He doesn't have the hardest shot but he always hides what he's doing and he's very accurate with his shot too. I like it. I think we're going to have fun this year."
5. Fleury decided to stick with the retro pads after moving from Vegas to Chicago, but he had to tinker with the color a bit. The reasoning for staying with the gold?
"I just thought [Corey Crawford] had the black pads for the whole time, [Collin Delia] had the red pads, [Kevin Lankinen] and [Malcolm Subban] have the white pads, so I wanted something different and tried to get something that matched the face of the logo," Fleury said. "It was supposed to be more metallic but I guess it looks a little more brown, but I think they're good."
6. Two days in and you could see how much Seth Jones enjoys jumping into the rush and trying to create offense. It sure looks like he's going to have more freedom to tap into his offensive potential, given the system change from Columbus to Chicago.
"I think there's maybe a little bit more emphasis on transition with Jeremy [Colliton]," Jones said. "[John Tortorella] is obviously a pretty tight coach when it comes to defense and staying above the puck and things like that. There are some minor differences I see, for sure. For the most part it's aggressive forechecking, when you don't like what you see get above the puck, backcheck, D keep a tight gap and then try to get going on offense as quick as you can."
7. The last player to wear No. 4 for the Blackhawks was Niklas Hjalmarsson, who's a three-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the greatest defensive defensemen in franchise history. Jones knows that and explained the process of picking his number.
"I had 4 when I was younger, growing up," he said. "I went to Portland to play junior and an older guy had 4, so I had to go 3, so I just kept 3 through Nashville and Columbus. Three is obviously retired here, so I asked for 4 and they were a little hesitant to give me that. They got back to me probably a day later and said, 'The only reason we'll give you 4 is because you're here long-term.' I'm happy I got 4. I don't know what I would've done if I didn't get 4."
8. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook no longer with the team, the Blackhawks have a few openings for their alternate captain positions. Patrick Kane will almost certainly wear the "A." It's unclear who might wear the second. Potential candidates include Alex DeBrincat, Seth Jones and Connor Murphy, although head coach Jeremy Colliton didn't rule out the possibility of rotating home and road like they did last season at times.
"Typically you kind of see how camp goes, who’s going to be on the team," Colliton said. "You let the team dynamics sort of play out. Yeah, you have an idea who it could be potentially doing it. But obviously Stan [Bowman's] involved with that and the coaching staff. And again it’s having conversations with some of the players as well. But probably we’ll wait till closer to the season."
9. Mike Hardman and Kevin Lankinen did not practice on Friday due to COVID-19 protocols. The Blackhawks are 100 percent vaccinated, but similar rules from last season apply, such as an initial positive test that's unconfirmed, high-risk close contact, symptomatic individuals and more.
10. With Lankinen out, Collin Delia skated with the main group but left practice during the conditioning drills at the very end and appeared to be in some discomfort. Colliton didn't have an update after practice, but did acknowledge he doesn't "foresee it being an issue."