Blackhawks defenseman prospect Wyatt Kalynuk has what it takes to be the standout at training camp, beginning Monday, that nobody is expecting.
The element of surprise is on the former Badger defenseman's side. For the most part, Kalynuk's signing flew under the radar during an unusual offseason that produced an equally unusual (but fun) postseason.
On the Hawks' blueline at camp, all eyes will be on three-time Stanley Cup champ Brent Seabrook to see how he's moving after surgeries on his right shoulder and both hips in the winter. He participated in the team's summer camp ahead of the playoffs but hasn't played a game since Dec. 15 of 2019.
D prospects Adam Boqvist, 20, and Ian Mitchell, 21, are also slated to garner more attention than Kalynuk. Boqvist logged 41 of Chicago's 70 regular season games in 2019-20, showing that there's a lot of room for improvement overall, but also flashed some elite skill at times. He was a healthy scratch for Game 2 of the Hawks' Round One series against the Vegas Golden Knights in the bubble.
Blackhawks fans have been chomping at the bit to get a look at Mitchell since he was selected at No. 57 overall in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft by Chicago.
Mitchell spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver. He captained Denver this past season and set a career high in goals (10) and points (32) through 36 games.
Where Kalynuk can slide in and impress during sessions is if he's given an opportunity to quarterback the Hawks' power play that is in dire need of a spark after finishing the 2019-20 as the fourth-worst team on the man advantage, converting at 15.2%. Boqvist was far from able to run away with his chances at the role last year.
As a junior, Kalynuk served as the PP QB for Wisconsin and was the team's captain. Kalynuk chose to forego his senior year when he signed a two-year contract with Chicago in July.
He recorded 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 36 games with the Badgers last season and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. The blueliner also had 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Wisconsin.
There's no doubt Kalynuk's skill set helped him become valuable running the man advantage and being an offensive defenseman at the college level. At training camp, we'll begin to see if that can translate at the NHL level.
At 23, he's more physically and perhaps mentally mature than Boqvist and Mitchell.
Wyatt's heach coach with the Badgers, Tony Granato, thinks that not only will he stick in the NHL, but that the Hawks' best players will want Kalynuk on the ice when they are.
"He's very elusive," Granato told NBC Sports Chicago in July. "He's a guy that I think if you look at the Blackhawks' lineup, especially the skill upfront and the forwards upfront, they need guys from the backend that can not only get them the puck, but also get up in the play with them. "I see him as one of the players that Toews and Kane and the skill guys are going to say, 'I want to be on the ice with him,' because of the way he reads the game and he's able to support the play from a defenseman's standpoint. I think it's a great fit."
The Blackhawks begin training camp on Monday at the Hawks' practice facility, Fifth Third Arena, leading up to Chicago's first regular season game in Tampa Bay against the Lightning on Jan. 13.