Blackhawks' defense readjusts without Duncan Keith


Blackhawks' defense readjusts without Duncan Keith

Trevor van Riemsdyk knows what the news means as much as anyone.

With all-everything defenseman Duncan Keith sidelined 4-6 weeks after right-knee surgery, it’s now all hands on deck. Everyone has to do a little bit more. And for a Blackhawks defensive corps that has suddenly gotten much younger and much more experienced, it’s going to take everyone contributing.

“It’ll be a concerted effort, obviously, to fill those minutes,” van Riemsdyk said following Tuesday’s practice. “It’s going to take a little bit from everyone.”

Indeed, no one guy is going to replace Keith, the two-time Norris and one-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner who can seemingly play endless minutes, and play them at a high level. Still, the Blackhawks have to figure out what to do for about a month, without changing their style drastically.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Duncan Keith out 4 to 6 weeks after knee surgery]

“We don’t want to change too much in our approach,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Guys are going to know they’re going to get more responsibility. With our team game, we’ll emphasize playing the right way. I don’t think you want to change too much in how you focus going into a game. Individually, guys are going to be assuming more and I’m sure they’re excited about it.”

So what do the Blackhawks do? For starters, Quenneville said Niklas Hjalmarsson will go back to his usual left side. Hjalmarsson has been on the right with Keith, who has been his partner in this early season. He played on the right when paired with Johnny Oduya in seasons past, too, but the left is his natural side. He and van Riemsdyk were paired in some drills on Tuesday. Seabrook remained with Viktor Svedberg and Trevor Daley is now with David Rundblad, who will likely draw back into the lineup.

Rundblad has been a healthy scratch for all but one game this regular season.

“It’s a big opportunity for me to be playing,” he said. “It’s been tough not playing these last few games, so of course I’m excited. It’s never fun to see a teammate get hurt. I just have to make the best of the situation and do my best.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It’s a “possibility,” Quenneville said, that the Blackhawks put Keith on long-term injured reserve – players on LTIR have to be out for 10 games and 24 days. That would free up some salary-cap room in case the Blackhawks want to recall another defenseman. Michal Rozsival, who’s already on LTIR, is eligible to come off it around Oct. 29. Quenneville said Rozsival (ankle) should be close to being ready by the end of this month, so that would help the Blackhawks get another veteran back on the blue line.

Young or veteran, experienced or not, the remaining Blackhawks defensemen have that much more responsibility for a few weeks.

“You feel bad but you want to take it upon yourself, if you can, to be that much more ready, that much more dialed in because it’ll take a team effort to replace those minutes,” van Riemsdyk said. “No one guy can do that.”

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 strong at both ends of the ice and tries modeling his game after Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins.

"I’m a two-way defenseman," Beaudin said. "I can provide offense, too. I’ve got a great IQ. I think in my zone I’m just getting better and better."

Beaudin is also a left-handed shot, which is something the Blackhawks could use more of in the organization along the blue line when it comes to impact-type players.

"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."