Blackhawks: Left or right, Trevor van Riemsdyk rolls with changes


Blackhawks: Left or right, Trevor van Riemsdyk rolls with changes

Trevor van Riemsdyk isn’t fazed about switching from left to right and back again on defense.

The defenseman did the same thing at the University of New Hampshire, going from his natural right side to the left as the team needed. It got to be a typical part of his game. With the Blackhawks, it still is.

“Whatever they need,” van Riemsdyk said. “Whether you have a bunch of lefties or righties in the lineup or the matchups and pairings they want to go with. You just have to be ready, have to be able to play either side, know when you’re going out there what side you’re supposed to be on, play accordingly.”

Van Riemsdyk has done plenty of moving around the lineup for the Blackhawks this season, having several different defensive partners and playing on the right and left sides. For a team that loves a versatile player, van Riemsdyk has fit in various ways.

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“It’s good having that flexibility on the back end. It gives you a lot of options in games,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He can play both sides, play with anybody, can play all situations and can kill penalties. He’s been helpful in a lot of ways. We’re going to need him to continue to play and get better as we go along.”

Van Riemsdyk has played with everyone at some point this season. He started the preseason with Duncan Keith. Then he was with Niklas Hjalmarsson, then Brent Seabrook and then Michal Rozsival and former Blackhawks Trevor Daley and Rob Scuderi and ... you get the picture. Part of it has been the Blackhawks looking for the right combinations on defense. Some defensemen — Keith and Seabrook — stay on their usual sides.

Van Riemsdyk has been one who’s gone back and forth, but his college days have prepped him for this. As a freshman at UNH, van Riemsdyk played left and right side. He spent of his sophomore season on the left and then was back on the right for his junior year. So he’s used to this.

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And his partners with the Blackhawks are usually pretty good.

“Yeah, it’s not too bad. Looking at the guys I get to play with, whether it’s Duncs, Seabs for a little bit, Hammer at the start of the year ... they’re all great players and they make it easy to play with them,” van Riemsdyk said. “Everyone’s pretty well aware of what we’re trying to do on the ice, so it’s not too challenging when you’re switching guys up because you have so many guys who are such great players. They make it easy for me.”

What’s also helped van Riemsdyk is a full, healthy season. He hasn’t had one of those in a while. He suffered a fractured ankle during his junior season at UNH, then a fractured kneecap and wrist injury, both of which required surgery, last season with the Blackhawks. Van Riemsyk has had his ups and downs this season, and his shifts from left to right. But the one constant has been his health, which has given him a chance to have a complete season.

“Yeah, it’s been nice,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been a little bit by the injury bug there the last little bit but it’s definitely nice to stay healthy and be here on a night-to-night basis and helping the team in whatever way I can.” 

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: