Blackhawks

Chad Krys signs with Blackhawks, but joins a crowded blue line group

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AP

Chad Krys signs with Blackhawks, but joins a crowded blue line group

After three seasons in college, Chad Krys has decided to turn pro. The 20-year-old defenseman agreed to terms with the Blackhawks on a three-year, entry-level contract that runs through the 2021-22 season and carries an $853,333 cap hit.

Krys will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, where he will finish out the season. His deal kicks in next year, where he can earn up to $132,500 in performance bonuses and $82,500 the following season, according to puckpedia.com.

A second-round pick (No. 45 overall) in 2016, Krys accumulated 58 points (20 goals, 38 assists) in 105 games at Boston University. He served as an alternate captain during his junior season, and scored a career-high eight goals in 30 games.

In July, Krys said he felt like returning to college was best for his development in the bigger picture.

"I mean, look if I could play in the NHL right now I'd love to," Krys said at Blackhawks development camp. "But for me I think it's important that I'm taking the right steps. I want to make that jump when I feel like I'm going to be able to play in the NHL. My two years at BU has really benefitted me. Going back there and playing a lot and take it year by year. There's a lot of defensemen in this organization and we'll see what happens. I want to keep getting better, but for right now I'm just kind of focused on this year, and we'll decide what's going on after this."

Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are known to be the Big Four defensemen prospects that the Blackhawks are high on, and the blue line in Rockford is crowded, too. So Krys has his work cut out for him.

But getting a head start with the IceHogs and making a strong early impression — perhaps even in the Calder Cup playoffs — could help serve as a nice building block going into next season.

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2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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Blackhawks mailbag: NHL Draft and how to improve penalty kill

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AP

Blackhawks mailbag: NHL Draft and how to improve penalty kill

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Turcotte or Byram? And for the one that you don’t pick up, how do you suggest fill the gap that the player would have? (Top 4 defenseman, future 1C, etc.)

The Blackhawks have exactly one week to decide who they want to take at No. 3 overall. We will save our predictions for the Hawks Talk Podcast on Monday. But let’s play out both scenarios:

If Bowen Byram is the pick, the Blackhawks would be adding a potential No. 1 defenseman to the pipeline and will have spent their last four first-rounders on blue liners (Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju). Not drafting a center in that spot would indicate that the Blackhawks are very comfortable with Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome as their 1-2 punch up the middle for years to come. 

If Alex Turcotte (or any other forward) is the pick, the Blackhawks will almost certainly look to upgrade their defensive group via free agency and explore the trade market. They’re putting their faith into the high-end defensemen prospects mentioned above, but they can’t all be broken in at once — and there also aren’t spots for all of them. The Blackhawks have to bridge the gap somehow.

If the Hawks pick Byram, do you think he steps right into the NHL next year and stays in?

This is an interesting situation. Byram tallied 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 games in his first season in the WHL, and set a record by becoming the first defenseman in league history to lead all players playoff scoring. And he did it at age 17. What else would he have to prove there?

Byram isn’t committed to play anywhere for the 2019-20, so the franchise that drafts him will likely have a big say in where that is. Could he step into the NHL right away? Probably. But that would be putting him into an extremely tough spot, and it would take a while for him to actually feel comfortable enough to make a big impact on a nightly basis. The Blackhawks want their young players to thrive, not survive.

One option could be doing something similiar to what the Vancouver Canucks did with Quinn Hughes — the No. 7 overall pick in 2018 — and Colorado Avalanche with Cale Makar — the No. 4 overall pick in 2017 who spent two years in college before coming to the NHL — by letting them play one more year in the NCAA, then bringing them over immediately after their seasons ended for the stretch run and, in Colorado's case, the playoffs. 

How do you think the Hawks will try to improve the penalty kill?

The Blackhawks will be (and have been) looking at everything when it comes to improving a penalty kill that finished tied for the worst percentage in 30 years: scheme, personnel, mentality, etc. There will certainly be an emphasis on that this summer, and they'll likely look to add players via free agency that could shore up that department.

It's unclear how the assistant coaching duties will be divided up, but Tomas Mitell and veteran Marc Crawford add fresh ideas to the table so that can't hurt. And having a full training camp and preseason to get things sorted out will be much easier than having to learn the new concepts on the fly like they did last season.

Jeremy Colliton said on the Hawks Talk Podcast that a major reason why he felt the Blackhawks couldn't get the penalty kill turned around is because there was some indecisiveness, schematically, when it came to the aggressiveness of pressuring the puck. So expect that to be something the Blackhawks put a heavy emphasis on when training camp starts.

"Major factor for us this year is that we were in between a lot," Colliton said. "To me, either go and you go 100 percent and together. Or you don't go at all. And I think we ended up in a lot of situations where we were halfway or we had one guy going or two guys going and then all of a sudden they had just enough time to make a play and then you're exposed in other areas of the ice. It's an adjustment for a lot of our guys to play more aggressive."

Assuming the offseason goes well, predictions for next season?

It’s hard to predict what may happen without seeing the moves the Blackhawks — and other teams in the Western Conference — make or don’t make but there’s no reason to think playoff hockey can’t return to Chicago next season. 

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews showed they’re still in their prime. Alex DeBrincat has emerged as a 40-goal scorer. Dylan Strome might be a point-per-game player in his first full season with the Blackhawks. Same with Erik Gustafsson from the back end. Special teams should improve, and so should the defense. Most importantly, players know what to expect from Colliton at this point and they'll have all the time in the world to get on the same page.

Now, it can’t be ignored that the Blackhawks found themselves in the playoff hunt till the end of the season because the second wild card spot bar wasn’t very high. Colorado finished scorching hot down the stretch and got in with 90 points, but for a while it looked like 87 would be enough. That won’t happen again next season. The Blackhawks have to take it upon themselves to get in because last season’s race was a fluke, not a trend.

When do the training camps and tournaments begin at Fifth Third Bank (MB Ice Arena) this summer?

The Blackhawks have yet to announce when training camp will begin, but the preseason schedule should be out shortly. And it usually starts a little less than a week before the first game, although this season's schedule could look different with the Blackhawks heading to Berlin on Sept. 29 for an exhibition game and Prague on Oct. 4 for the season opener.

Development camp, however, is already set and that will run from July 15-19 at Fifth Third Arena. It will be the first opportunity to view the Blackhawks' 2019 draft picks, including the No. 3 overall selection.

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