Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

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Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

Michal Rozsival felt a little apprehensive entering last weekend’s games.

Certainly, the Blackhawks defenseman was emotionally and mentally ready to get back to the lineup. He was physically ready, too, after six months of rehabilitating his fractured left ankle. Still, he was wondering how he would react to back-to-back games.

“You hope, you know, you did everything you could in the rehab process, which I think we did, and I felt great into practices. But going into games is obviously a different situation,” Rozsival said on Monday. “You basically have to go all out, put a lot of stress in that leg and at any given moment you need to. I did feel a little unsure going into it.”

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His concerns, however, diminished with each passing shift. Now, instead of thinking about his ankle, Rozsival is just thinking about games and what the rest of this season could bring.

Rozsival played in back-to-back games last weekend, his first games since fracturing his left ankle in Game 4 against the Minnesota Wild last May. It was a long wait for Rozsival, and immediately going in for a back-to-back was a heck of a debut for him. But it all turned out well.

“It was a good challenge; it was a great test for the ankle and for myself,” Rozsival said. “I felt OK, you know? I didn’t feel my best, but OK. Obviously there are still some things I need to work on still, but overall I think I did OK. But most important we won both of the games. That’s what makes me happy the most.”

Rozsival played 13 minutes against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, then close to 14 minutes against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He said he came out of those games feeling no ill effects.

“As far as my ankle, everything looks fine,” he said. “Everything was OK even on back to back nights, which is a lot for an ankle to come back after six months. But it held up pretty good.”

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Rozsival and Duncan Keith’s return this weekend provided a big boost for the Blackhawks. Keith was back supplying the big minutes. Rozsival gave the Blackhawks a veteran option they’ve been missing and some steadiness on the last pair.

“I liked his game, really appreciate his though process out there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He did some good things, defended well and added experience to our back end as well; a lot of direct plays, patience with the puck.”

Rozsival’s recovery took a while; he finished on the end of the 4-to-6-month window given for the injury. It wasn’t an easy time, from his summer of being able to do very little to the workouts and extra skates he participated in to play again. Now that his focus is back on the game and not his injury, however, all the work was worth it.

“You kind of forget about the thrill of getting ready for an NHL game,” he said. “It’s been a long time; six months is a long time. I’ve been around but it’s not the same. You’re not playing, not preparing. The adrenaline before the hockey game and playing the hockey game and winning hockey the game, it’s really a special feeling. It was great to be back.”

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?

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USA TODAY

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.