Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Jan Rutta embracing Chicago both on and off the ice

Blackhawks' Jan Rutta embracing Chicago both on and off the ice

Jan Rutta spent no time in America prior to Blackhawks training camp but he loves what he’s seen in Chicago thus far, from a walk along Michigan Avenue to seeing his favorite band, the Offspring, at a recent concert to taking in the Bears season opener last Sunday.

And he’s a big American football fan now — “Oh yeah,” he said. “Big time.”

Be it the city or training camp, they’ve both had the same impact on the Czech defenseman.

“The city’s quite big, that’s a difference,” said Rutta, who hails from Pisek, a small town about 90 minutes from Prague. “Here [at camp], it’s also bigger, everything is bigger and faster. But everyone’s been kind to me, so that helps a lot.”

Rutta’s transition to Chicago has been a relatively smooth one. It helps that he has a few fellow Czechs here at camp, including Michal Kempny and David Kampf. Kempny, who paired with Rutta at Sunday’s scrimmage and was a national teammate of his in the past, has been especially helpful. Language isn’t a problem, either, as Rutta already has a strong command of English. He credits that in part to former Chomutov Pirati teammate and close friend Brett Skinner, a Canadian defenseman who also spent some time with the Rockford IceHogs in 2013-14.

The on-ice adjustment hasn’t been so bad, either. As with anyone coming over from Europe, playing on the smaller ice surface is always a question. But Rutta said that’s not the big concern.

“I’d say it’s more about the players because they’re faster. You just have to make plays faster,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Rutta’s had a very steady presence in his first few days here.

“Sometimes you talk about defenseman a guy quietly goes about his business and you say he didn’t jump out at you. But I find those defensemen who are very predictable, safe and reliable, they’re getting the job done,” Quenneville said. “I like his size, the way he thinks the game, the way he moves. Getting acclimated to the smaller ice is a work in progress but he’ll only get better as we go along. It’s been a good camp for him.”

Where Rutta fits in on the Blackhawks roster — or if, right now — remains to be seen.

He’s enjoying his time in America, off and on the ice. Obviously he’d like to be part of the Blackhawks starting roster but whether he’s here or in Rockford, he’s ready to adjust his game on this side of the pond.

“I came here to give it a shot, to try my best and I’m not going to quit after a camp either way it goes,” Rutta said. “Hopefully I’ll be with the Blackhawks. I’ll just do my best.”

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

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

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."

NHL Draft Profile: D Rasmus Dahlin

NHL Draft Profile: D Rasmus Dahlin

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

Rasmus Dahlin

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 181 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"Is the clear-cut No. 1, pro ready prospect for the 2018 draft. He has the skating, skills and elite hockey sense that can dictate the style of play and the pace of a game, whether it's with or without the puck. He finds ways to contribute and get the job done in all situations."

NHL player comparable: Nicklas Lidstrom

Fit for Blackhawks:

There is zero chance the Blackhawks can snag Dahlin, because it's highly unlikely the Buffalo Sabres would consider moving out of the No. 1 spot, and even if they did it would require a king's ransom. But for the sake of this exercise, what would Dahlin do for the Blackhawks organization?

Well, he's a player who immediately slots into your Top 4 and has the potential to emerge as Chicago's best defenseman in the next year or two. We're seeing it in Boston with Charlie McAvoy, Philadelphia with Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, and Columbus with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones where these young defensemen are changing the directions of their franchise's.

That's what Dahlin would do for the Blackhawks, who are in desperate need of a young, impact blue liner. Now back to reality.