Blackhawks prospect John Hayden still believes staying at Yale for senior season was the right choice

Blackhawks prospect John Hayden still believes staying at Yale for senior season was the right choice

When John Hayden participated in the Blackhawks’ prospect camp last summer, his course for the fall was already set. The Blackhawks probably had more opportunities for young forwards entering the 2016-17 season than in the past several years but for Hayden, playing his senior season at Yale was the best choice for him.

“Obviously all of us want to play pro hockey. That’s our goal. For me, it was just trying to take a step back and see the big picture and not take it too fast. I think I’ll really develop with one more year at Yale,” Hayden said in July. “Obviously it’s not easy, but the pros will still be there.”

Fast forward to the present day and yes, the pros are still here. With his senior year complete and his game developed a little more, Hayden is now among them.

Hayden signed a two-year deal with the Blackhawks on Sunday and made his debut the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Hayden, who the Blackhawks let take the first lap in warmups in honor of his NHL debut, logged 8:44 of ice time against the Senators. He landed the first of his three hits in his first few seconds on the ice.

His senior season at Yale was a successful one. Hayden set career highs in goals (21) assists (13) and points (34) in 34 games with Yale. For Hayden, there’s no doubt it was worth returning for that final season.

“It was an amazing experience this year,” he said in Montreal. “Obviously fell short at Harvard a few days ago but it was an incredible experience helping lead that team, especially the seniors I’ve been with for a few years now. I’ve been developing pretty steadily the last few years. I think coach [Keith] Allain has done a great job, so I’m very appreciative.”

[VIVID SEATS: Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

Quenneville said he sees the difference in Hayden from when he saw him in the summer until now.

“Not seeing him for a while and see him add more pace to his game. It looks like he can add an element to our team,” Quenneville said on Tuesday. “Over the last day or so, going over our systems, we’ll let him be aware how we play and what things to look for into the game. He’s a direct player and we don’t want him to change that too much.”

The pace of which Quenneville spoke was something Hayden wanted to improve over his senior season and he feels better about it now – not that he’s done working on it.

“It’s something I’ve been addressing every summer the last few years. Coach Allain plays a very high tempo game, so everyone year it’s helped me develop,” Hayden said. “That’s something that’s definitely come a long way, but something I still need to work on.”

Like many young players in the Blackhawks’ system, Hayden could have had a chance to make the team this fall. But going back to school, leading his alma mater one more season and improving his game, loomed larger. The opportunity that was there in the fall is still here for Hayden, and now he’ll see what he can do with it.

“I don’t want to play one game in the NHL. I want to have a long career. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve tried to look at the big picture the last few years and understand there’s definitely a development curve,” he said. “I think was beneficial to be at Yale for four years.”

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.