Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'


Blackhawks: Bryan Bickell finding his game after 'reality check'

Bryan Bickell returned to the Blackhawks with a bang – and a big hit.

His collision with former teammate Dustin Byfuglien just over a week ago was a welcome sight for the Blackhawks, who needed that physical element back in their game. It was also a welcome delivery for Bickell, who, back in the Blackhawks fold, knows he needs to bring his best game every night.

“I think every game is like the last game,” Bickell said. “The reality check was going down there and doing that and coming back up to fight my way in.”

Bickell just about had his first goal of the season on Sunday night, but it ended up being an assist when Dennis Rasmussen pushed over the line in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Still, it looks like he’s finding a good level with Shaw and Rasmussen, who Bickell also played with during his Rockford time.

For Bickell, it’s about playing at the right level every night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Me, Shaw and Ras aren’t giving up much defensively and getting some offensive looks,” he said. “Personally I think I’ve been doing what they’ve asked me: keeping it simple, straight lines and finishing checks.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Bicks has been fine.”

“There’s been a presence there. I think he’s progressed in his game as well but the simpler he keeps it the more efficient and effective he can be,” Quenneville continued. “We notice him in the lineup just being a presence along the boards and in the puck area.”

The Blackhawks missed Bickell during his time in Rockford. They knew their teammate was struggling but also knew what he was capable of, given his part in previous Stanley Cup runs.

“Right from the start he brought some energy. It was just nice having him back in the room, regardless of what he can bring on the ice,” Jonathan Toews said. “It’s not fun to have gone through what he’s gone through, especially with what he’s accomplished, what he’s done for our team the last number of years. But he sucked it up, came back and he’s ready to work and to play well, and we’ve seen that so far.”

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What happens if the worst-case scenario looms again? If Bickell starts struggling again and the Blackhawks choose to give him the ultimate wake-up call again, Bickell would have to go through waivers again. Here’s Article 13.5 for Waiver Expiration:

The rights granted under this Article to Loan a Player(s) who is otherwise required to clear Regular Waivers to a minor league club expire for any Player(s) who, after clearing Regular Waivers:

(i) is not Loaned to a minor league club, or is Recalled from a minor league club (except on emergency Recall) and remains on an NHL roster for thirty (30) days (cumulative) or plays ten (10) NHL Games (cumulative).

Bickell took advantage of his time in Rockford and he’s starting to find his game and line chemistry here. He knows there is no room for off nights.

“I want to fight every game like it’s my last, as long as possible,” Bickell said. “Keeping my physicality every game is crucial for this team and I need to bring it.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

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

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.