Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

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Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

Phillip Danault figured it was going to take a little time.

The Blackhawks center was brought up for the first time last season but was in Chicago briefly. Recalled again in December, Danault had a better chance to get acclimated.

“I told my dad I needed five-to-10 games to get used to the NHL,” Danault said. “The execution is way different and details are so different. It’s been a great chance for me. I’m glad to take it.”

It’s not a surprise that Danault has been up the entire time since he was recalled on Dec. 18, the day after the Blackhawks learned they’d be without Marcus Kruger (wrist) until the start of the postseason. Now, 24 games into this season, Danault has adjusted to the NHL and to his checking-line center role with the Blackhawks.

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“He’s done a great job for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He handled a big responsibility, takes a lot of defensive responsibilities and D-zone face-offs and sometimes you’re out there against top lines, a lot of starts in your own end and you’re expected to defend against top guys. We trusted him in that role right off the bat and that line has done a great job for us and everyone’s contributed in their own ways.”

It’s well known that the Blackhawks told Danault, when they drafted him, that they wanted him to be another Kruger. That wouldn’t be a problem for Danault, who said he’s been playing that two-way game since he was with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The adjustments, however, had to come as he advanced through the ranks.

“All the small details, execution, moving your feet; you can’t stand in the corner without moving your feet and protecting the puck here. That’s the big difference,” Danault said. “I kept my game from juniors but to be good here, as much as you have juniors, you have to take a couple of more steps and then you’re ready. You also need a coach who trusts you in all situations and I’m lucky to have that.”

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Quenneville trusts Danault and his linemates. He, Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen have been together quite a while now (outside of a game or two in which Teravainen has played elsewhere when teammates have been out). Being part of the same trio has helped Danault’s NHL transition as well.

“It always takes time to get used to new linemates but we’ve been lucky to stay together and I think we’re playing great together and are very good defensively,” Danault said. “We bring offensive chances. The points aren’t coming but I don’t think that’s our job right now. [We have to] stay tight defensively and try to buzz in their zone as much as possible.”

Danault has a goal and four assists in his 24 games this season; a good part of that came in late December/early January, when that line was on a hot streak. In the 33 games he played before his injury, Kruger had one assist. Supplementary scoring isn’t the top priority for the checkers but it’s always welcome.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!

Points aside, Danault has done the job the Blackhawks needed him to do in Kruger’s absence. He knew it was going to take some time to adjust to the NHL game. This season, he’s gotten the chance to do so.

“I’m modeling my game after Kruger because he’s obviously the best defensively and on the PK. So when I came here I just wanted to prove I could play two-way and bring some offense at the same time,” Danault said. “I think it’s part of my game right now.”

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.” 

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula had a successful college hockey career. He compiled 127 points (62 goals, 65 assists) in 162 career games across four seasons at North Dakota, and served as an alternate captain during his senior year.

But before committing to college, Caggiula was being recruited by the Erie Otters of the OHL and there could've been a moment where he played with Connor McDavid and current teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome all at the same time.

“I remember telling Sherry Bassin, the GM of Erie, how I was going to go to college," Caggiula said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "He kept reiterating that, 'at 16 years old, we’re not going to be that great. But at 17, we’re going to be a little bit better, but not great. But at 18 and 19, those are going to be your big years and we’re going to have a really good team and we’re going to surround you with good players.’ I mean, that’s two years in the future so it’s hard to really see that.

"Looking back at it now, the players that I could have played with, they had some pretty talented players go through Erie. Even Dylan Larkin was an Erie draft pick and ended up going to Michigan. It could have been a pretty talented team there so it’s kind of funny to see how it all works out. We’re all here today coming from different paths so it’s pretty cool.”

Any chirps from the guys about his decision now?

“Yeah, Connor [McDavid] used to make fun of me all the time, you know? ‘Oh, we would have won the Memorial Cup if you would have joined the team!’ and all that sort of stuff," Caggiula joked. "We talk about it a little bit just here and there saying, ‘what a team we could have had and imagine who we would have been playing with and now we’re all here together. What if we all would have started in Erie together and now we’re here together?’ It just would have been a pretty cool story. It’s obviously something that we can’t control but it’s definitely something that you can look back at and laugh at.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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