Blachawks: Richards, Timonen sparked by postseason potential


Blachawks: Richards, Timonen sparked by postseason potential

NASHVILLE — Brad Richards talked of the “second season,” as it were, that time of year that reignites the spark that can sometimes flicker in a draggy, 82-game season.

“I can tell you all year how excited I was to play games in October,” he said. “But when I signed in July I was thinking about this.”

“This” is the postseason. “This” is what so many players aspire to get to, and what the Blackhawks have gotten to for seven consecutive seasons. It’s exciting for every player. It’s even more exciting for those like Richards and Kimmo Timonen, who, either via free agency or trade, looked at the Blackhawks as their next great opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.

“I still feel we have really good chance to do something well here,” said Timonen, who is chasing his first Cup. “We all know it’s a long process. It’s not something we can do quickly. But this team has as good a chance as anyone else. I’ve seen clips when this team plays really well; we are hard to beat. In the playoffs it’ll be tight. But I have a lot of confidence we can do it.”

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Timonen missed the last three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury sustained against the St. Louis Blues. But coach Joel Quenneville said Timonen be healthy and available to play during the postseason. The veteran defenseman is here for one reason: he wants to win a Cup. It’s the one thing that kept him motivated as he battled blood clots, which were discovered last summer and kept him off the ice until February.

Going back to Nashville, where he played for several seasons, is extra motivation.

“It gives me some extra energy, extra excitement,” he said. “I was there eight years and I was a captain one season. I had a good time there, played a lot of games there. Excitement is building and it’s a good sign. That’s what we do this sport for, and I’m sure everyone’s feeling the same way.”

For Timonen, this is it. Whether he wins that elusive Cup or not, he said he’s retiring at the end of this season. Richards has several years’ worth of hockey in front of him, although it’s likely one-and-done with the Blackhawks. The motivation’s there nonetheless. This is the fun part of the season, the time every player strives to get to.

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“You go through the process, go through the grind – especially since I signed two weeks after losing in the Cup Final. So you’re really hungry and want to get back into the battle,” Richards said. “Starting Wednesday night, that makes it worth the whole process. I have as good a chance as anyone with this team to win.”

Blackhawks add another defenseman to pipeline, draft Nicolas Beaudin at No. 27


Blackhawks add another defenseman to pipeline, draft Nicolas Beaudin at No. 27

DALLAS — Despite taking Adam Boqvist with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks took a second defenseman at No. 27 with the selection of Nicolas Beaudin.

Beaudin is a 5-foot-11, 172-pound defenseman who prides himself on playing a two-way game and tries modeling his style after Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. Beaudin is also a left-handed shot, which is something the Blackhawks could use more of in the organization along their blue line.

"Nicolas is a very efficient defender," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "He’s got a really nice skill set. He makes the game look pretty easy. He’s a smooth player, not a lot of panic to his game. He’s a good skater so when he has to turn back and get to the puck he can get there first. Usually he just gets his setup and makes the simple play.

"You watch him play and he makes it look really easy. He’s not a guy that’s getting run over a lot. He’s not a real big player, but he uses his brain really well and he had over a point a game, too. He’s got a good feel for making plays and scoring points.

The 18-year-old registered 69 points (12 goals, 57 assists) in 68 games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, and added three goals and eight assists in 10 postseason contests.

Beaudin is the third defenseman the Blackhawks have taken in the first round the last two years, with Henri Jokiharju and Boqvist being the other two.

"It’s a winning culture in Chicago," Beaudin said. "They won a lot. I know they’ve got some young guys coming in. For sure in the next few years I want to earn my place and I want to try to learn a lot from a guy like Duncan Keith."

Blackhawks select Adam Boqvist with the No. 8 overall pick

Blackhawks select Adam Boqvist with the No. 8 overall pick

DALLAS — For the first time since drafting Patrick Kane first overall in 2007, the Blackhawks owned a top-10 pick in the NHL Draft. There was speculation that Stan Bowman might get aggressive and trade the No. 8 selection for immediate help if a deal made sense.

Instead, the draft couldn't have unfolded more favorably for the Blackhawks, who elected to keep the pick and drafted defenseman Adam Boqvist.

“You can never have enough D," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on the NBCSN broadcast. "He moves the puck, he’s very active in the play, very dynamic in a lot of ways. He can help our power play down the road, I am looking forward to seeing how he does in the summer and going into camp."

"There’s opportunity here on the back end with our team, and it’s going to be competitive along the way, but certainly you got a guy that can move the puck and get involved offensively, those guys are hard to find.”

Boqvist is a 5-foot-11, 168-pound right-handed shot blue-liner who's drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson, given his skating and offensive ability.

"He likes to compare himself to Erik Karlsson quite a bit, which is good," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. "When you watch him play, he's got that style to his game. You can sort of see he patterns his game after Erik. But he's honest too, he says I know I'm not Erik Karlsson, but I want to be my own player but I like the way he plays.

"Very likeable guy, upbeat kid, loves to play the game, has a passion for hockey. That's something that's always important because they're going to have to work their way up. Nothing comes easy even for players drafted this high. But you can tell he has a desire to keep getting better and to make it to the NHL."

He compiled 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 25 games for the Brynas J20 squad in the SuperElit league, and added three goals and two assists in three playoff games. But his production dropped off when he moved up to the Swedish Hockey League, where he registered only one assist in 15 games.

As we mentioned in our NHL Draft Profile this week, there are a few concerns about Boqvist.

He's only 17 years old and his defensive work needs improvement, meaning the Blackhawks must be patient with his development. He's also sustained a couple head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds some risk to the equation, although Bowman denied having any concerns about that.

But there's clearly major upside if you're being compared to Karlsson as a best-case scenario.

"I think I need to improve my defensive play and need to be bigger and stronger," Boqvist said. "Of course, my offense can be better, too, so almost everything."