Blackhawks

Aaron Ekblad appreciative of Brian Campbell’s tutelage

Aaron Ekblad appreciative of Brian Campbell’s tutelage

Aaron Ekblad didn’t talk too much about the Florida Panthers’ coaching change, which came late Sunday night.

On Brian Campbell, though, Ekblad’s demeanor quickly became upbeat. For the 20-year-old defenseman who’s already playing in his third NHL season, the time he played with Campbell was invaluable.

“Playing with him was my ultimate learning experience,” said Ekblad, who will face his partner when the Panthers play the Blackhawks Tuesday night at the United Center. “I got to play every game with a player who not only supported me and made sure I wasn’t making too many mistakes, but taught the game in a way that was simple and easy. Also, he was a very understanding guy. He let me do what I needed to do and helped me understand the game in different ways.”

Campbell rejoined the Blackhawks this offseason, signing a one-year, $2-million deal. Ekblad misses having Campbell as a teammate but the two still keep in touch.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I love Soupy. He was a great friend when he was around. Still to this day we send the odd text,” Ekblad said. “We had a little exchange when he was leaving Florida in the summer. I wished him the best. He congratulated me on a few things I’ve done and, of course, I reciprocated.”

So far, Ekblad isn’t having as strong a season as he has previously. He does have six goals but is a minus-7 through 22 games. But the Panthers went through a lot of offseason changes, including on defense. Campbell departed as an unrestricted free agent, Dmitry Kulikov was traded and Keith Yandle and Jason Demers were signed. Campbell said he’s certain Ekblad will be fine.

“I wouldn’t be too worried about Aaron. He’s such a great kid, great person. He works so hard at his game,” Campbell said. “I can’t say I’ve watched a whole lot of his games. I talked to him a little bit and I know he’s been switched around a little bit with different guys. Sometimes that’s a little bit of a challenge. There are some younger guys there now, too. I know when I played with him we talked a lot about situations and really tried to get on the same page. I’m sure that didn’t happen right away for us. Maybe he’s going through some stuff like that. But man, I’d love to have him on my team.”

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.