Blackhawks

'A childhood dream': Alex Turcotte hopes to follow in Jonathan Toews' footsteps with Blackhawks

'A childhood dream': Alex Turcotte hopes to follow in Jonathan Toews' footsteps with Blackhawks

Third overall pick in the NHL Draft, a year of college hockey after that, then off to the NHL soon to become captain of the Blackhawks.

That's the path Jonathan Toews took back in 2006, and it could just be the same path carved out for Alex Turcotte.

Turcotte, an 18-year old center expected to be a top-5 pick in the upcoming June draft, knows his fair share about Toews and the Blackhawks. After all, he grew up in Chicago rooting for them.

"That’s a childhood dream, I guess, growing up as Hawks fan," said Turcotte. "You always think of how cool it’d be to play for the Chicago Blackhawks. I think that’s the same for any kid that is from their hometown with a chance to go there. It would be really cool, but in the end I’d be happy anywhere in the NHL."

Turcotte was one of the names linked to the Blackhawks all week at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo, and he confirmed he had multiple meetings with Chicago. So did prospects Bowen Byram, Kirby Dach and Dylan Cozens, among others.

The Blackhawks once again hold the third overall pick, the same as they did in 2006 when they selected Toews third overall. And it's only fitting that Turcotte has drawn comparisons to the Blackhawks' captain.

"It’s Jonathan Toews so ... he’s going to be a future Hall of Famer. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer and he’s proven himself," Turcotte said. "If I could be half the player he is, that’d be pretty cool. Obviously who knows, only time will tell what’s going to happen but he’s definitely someone that I think I look up to and try to be like. Like I said, he’s a special player and he’s known to be a winner. I can only hope to be as good as him one day."

Similar to Toews, Turcotte's game has been described as "sandpaper and silk" by his United States National Team Development Program coach John Wroblewski.

"I think it’s a pretty good description," Turcotte said. "I think I have a lot of skill but also I’m not afraid to go to the dirty areas and then take it to the net, grind it out in the corners."

His teammates at the USNTDP are confident Turcotte's game will translate to the NHL. And they agree with the assessment of his style of play. 

Matthew Boldy called him "competitive" while Trevor Zegras called him "strong." Spencer Knight called him a "bulldog" while Cam York said, in one word, "beast."

Certainly high praise from his peers. 

Hockey runs in the Turcotte family. His father, Alfie, was a first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1983. Alfie was selected 17th overall, and Alex figures to go much higher than that.

"Sometimes I chirp him a little bit about it. Just to give it to him a little bit," Alex said. "But as of today, he’s obviously the only one in my family that’s been drafted in the NHL and he’s gone the highest so far. He always reminds me of that. He always reminds me who has the most NHL point too so there’s really nothing I can say about it."

So how soon can Alex Turcotte potentially join the ranks of the elite in the NHL and surpass his father's 46 career points? That's the big question, as he's committed to play at the University of Wisconsin next season. 

"It’s hard to tell. You just have to take it a year at a time," Turcotte said. "Just really looking forward to it and just see how that year goes. And if I feel I’m ready then I’m ready. But definitely I’m keeping an open mind. And if I think I need more time, then so be it. I’m just going to take it a year at a time."

Toews was drafted in 2006 but returned to the University of North Dakota for another season before joining the Blackhawks in the fall of 2007. After one year, he was named the franchise's youngest ever captain. Only two seasons later, Toews captained the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. 

Alex Turcotte remembers it well. He was at the parade.

“I’ve never seen so many people in the streets obviously. It’s a special moment. The first cup in 49 years so it was pretty cool,” Turcotte said. “I just remember a lot of people just being crazy excited for the Hawks winning the Cup because it was so long. It’s definitely going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”

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Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

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USA TODAY

Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.

 

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