Blackhawks: Nick Mattson prepping for jump to Rockford


Blackhawks: Nick Mattson prepping for jump to Rockford

Nick Mattson doesn’t know what to expect when he gets to Rockford this fall but he had plenty of brains to pick on the subject this week.

“I’ve been asking them all how it is. They all say it’s one of the best places to go,” Mattson said. “It sounds like a great spot. I’m definitely excited to get the rest of the summer wrapped up and get there.”

Mattson signed a one-year contract with the IceHogs last month, not long after he wrapped up his four-year collegiate hockey career at the University of North Dakota. For Mattson, who was drafted 180th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Draft, the AHL, that first season of professional hockey, will be exciting. It’ll also be a little daunting.

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“It’ll be interesting right away, just getting acclimated to everything,” Mattson said. “It’s a new step in life, and I have no idea what it’s like, so it’ll be fun. I can’t predict anything because I don’t know what to expect. But I’m excited.”

Mattson’s anticipation level was high to start his senior year at North Dakota as well. The beginning wasn’t so great, however, as he was scratched several games. But once Mattson got back into the lineup he had a strong season; the senior recorded four goals and 17 assists in 33 games. Mattson said a changed mindset led to a good finish.

“Once I learned how to put all the distractions out of my head I just had fun and played,” he said. “Once you clear your head, do what you can do, it’s a lot different game; it’s a lot more fun. Once you start having fun, you can play a lot better.”

Mattson’s been to a few of the Blackhawks’ prospect camps, and he’s treating this one as he has the others: it’s a chance to show the Blackhawks brass what he can do, especially now that he’ll be joining their AHL affiliate. Still, having not played since April, this week isn’t easy.

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“It’s tough jumping out here in the middle of summer but it’s been cool,” Mattson said. “You really learn a lot in the drills they do and the coaches they have helping you are top notch. You just try to soak in as much as you can and hopefully survive. It’s pretty tough.”

Mattson is preparing for the next step in his career. Playing four years of college hockey was a great learning experience. He doesn’t know what to expect in Rockford, but he hopes to apply those college hockey lessons during his first professional season.

“It was a blast, so much fun,” Mattson said. “As much as you get better at hockey and college, you grow as a person; anyone who’s ever been to college knows that. It was a really good four years and I’m grateful for the experience.”

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.