Blackhawks D Michal Kempny adjusting well to smaller ice, NHL game

Blackhawks D Michal Kempny adjusting well to smaller ice, NHL game

Michal Kempny is learning English but still feels more comfortable with an interpreter. But when asked about his bouncing goal in the Blackhawks’ victory over St. Louis on Saturday night, he didn’t need help explaining it.

“It was lucky,” he said with a laugh.

Kempny is adjusting to his new language. He’s adapting to hockey over here pretty well, too.

The defenseman, who’s expected to be part of the Blackhawks’ defensive rotation this season, scored his first preseason goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 decision over the Blues. Kempny had a strong night overall, playing just under 22 minutes and tying for a team-high five shots (with Patrick Kane). Kempny spent about 9 1/2 of those minutes on the Blackhawks’ power play and penalty kill.

For the Blackhawks, who struggled with depth defensively last season, Kempny should be a welcome addition. The biggest question was how long it would take him to adjust to the smaller ice surface. Starting his September at the World Cup of Hockey helped in that respect. General manager Stan Bowman, who was at World Cup as Team North America’s assistant GM, saw Kempny play very well during the tournament.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016-17 season, Blackhawks fans!]

“For a player like Michal the biggest adjustment is going to be a little bit different style of hockey,” Bowman said. “I mean, hockey is hockey. It’s the same everywhere. But the smaller rink is the biggest thing. The dimension of the ice, you have to do things quicker over here. You tend to have a little more time in Europe. Obviously his first exposure to the smaller ice was against the best players in the world. I thought he did very well getting acclimated. Certainly [Team Czech Republic] used him on their team quite a bit. In almost all the games, he played a lot. Looking back, it was a good experience.”

Kempny’s been here for about a week now. He’s getting used to Chicago and his new teammates, some of whom he’s been watching for a while now.

“Just being here with them, Kane and [Artemi] Panarin, it’s a great moment, great honor and I’m enjoying being in the same locker room with them,” Kempny said through interpreter Igor Alfimov. “Those are players I’ve been following since I was a kid. Now I’m going to be spending time with them and learn something from them.”

Kempny is like Panarin in one respect: he’s a seasoned hockey player who’s just adapting to the North American style and ice. Panarin adjusted quickly. The Blackhawks hope Kempny can do the same.

“I’m really glad I’m here. Enjoying every moment,” Kempny said via Alfimov. “I feel better every day.”

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.

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

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

Filip Zadina

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 195 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: Marian Hossa

Fit for Blackhawks:

You know who the Blackhawks missed last year? Hossa. It's not mentioned enough when analyzing what went wrong in 2017-18. 

Well, Zadina is a player who's got the upside of Hossa and is one of a few prospects who could potentially crack the NHL lineup this upcoming season. The scouting report above is all you need to know about Zadina's style of play, and Blackhawks fans surely nodded through the whole thing because it's exactly what the team is looking for.

However, this is a case where the Blackhawks would have to trade up to snag him if they want him, because there's little chance he'll be on the board when the eighth pick rolls around. And it's probably unlikely they would do so, given what it may take to move up a few spots.