Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity


Blackhawks: Baun, McNeill ready to take advantage of opportunity

The Blackhawks changes, be it those that have already happened or those that could still occur, have been watched by many.

Other NHL teams, including those they’ve traded with, have been watching. The media has been watching. And prospects in the system have certainly been watching.

Being a Blackhawks prospect hasn’t been easy these last few years: the Blackhawks have been deep and, outside of the summer of 2010, haven’t had massive roster changes. Well this summer has meant big changes again, be it trades (Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, and possibly others before summer’s end) or free agents going elsewhere (Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and possibly Johnny Oduya).

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Bigger opportunities are going to be there come autumn, and several Blackhawks prospects have noticed.

“There’s definitely opportunity. I know that and you guys know that. So you definitely want to work hard,” forward Kyle Baun said. “I think there are spots available that are up for grabs, and with multiple players and there’s competition there. There’s motivation to know that they’re going to take a serious look at me and a few other guys.”

Two who are looking to take advantage of the opportunity, Baun and Mark McNeill, are at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this week. But there are others. Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman each played some last season and the two also spent the postseason with the Blackhawks as their Black Aces. Coach Joel Quenneville called Danault, who played twice in November, “tenacious.” Hartman, whose NHL debut in February began with a memorable hit on New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus, also made a good impression.

The competition will be fierce but prospects are ready for it, even if some didn’t want to talk too much about it.

“I'm just going to say it's an opportunity, you know?” McNeill said. “I'm really excited about it. It's gonna take a lot of hard work, but I've got to be ready to go when camp comes around.”

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Baun, who played three games with the Blackhawks, also garnered notice in a short amount of time; in the team’s exit interviews last month, Quenneville talked of Baun’s potential this season.

“He talked to me briefly,” Baun said. “[He] said he liked what I brought and expected me to have a big summer and to come ready for trainingcamp, were basically his words.”

Blackhawks prospects heading to training camp should always be ready for it. But they may be even that much more prepared for this one. There are big opportunities this season, big chances to make the team that haven’t been there in the recent past.

“At the end of the day it comes down to me trying to be the best player I can. That’s all I can really do,” Baun said. “At the end of the day, if I’m good enough I’m going to be there, if not I guess I won’t be there. All I can really do is work on my own game and not pay too, too much attention to [the changes], although it is interesting to follow.”

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.

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

“You can never have enough D, he moves the puck, he’s very active in the play, very dynamic in a lot of ways," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on the NBCSN broadcast. "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.”

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 isn't the best defender, meaning the Blackhawks must be patient with his development. He's also sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds some risk to the equation.

Boqvist joins Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell as the team's top three defensive prospects, all of whom have right-handed shots.

Stan Bowman: Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford 'progressing like he normally would'

Stan Bowman: Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford 'progressing like he normally would'

Stan Bowman likes where Corey Crawford is at this state of the offseason, he said Friday prior to the NHL Draft.

Speaking with NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle, Bowman noted that while Crawford hasn't begun doing any on-ice work, that isn't unusual for players this early.

"We’ve been in contact with Corey and I think he’s been progressing like he normally would," Bowman said. "Most guys don’t do a lot of on-ice work the first couple of months of the offseason.

"Typically they get back on the ice sometime in July, some guys don’t skate until August. I think that’s sort of the plan for Corey as we go along here. I would say he’s right on the normal schedule for the offseason and we’ll just see how that goes."

That's good news for the Blackhawks, who sorely missed Crawford a year ago. The three-time Stanley Cup champion appeared in just 28 games, earning a 16-9-2 record and a 2.27 GAA.