Blackhawks prospects balancing NHL opportunity and development


Blackhawks prospects balancing NHL opportunity and development

The Blackhawks have been forced to make some tough roster decisions this offseason — shipping fan-favorites Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp out of Chicago — due to salary cap restraints. But with that comes an opportunity for others to step up, particularly young players within the organization. 

Marko Dano is one of them.

The 20-year-old forward who was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Saad trade showed some real promise in 35 regular-season games last season, recording eight goals and 13 assists. Dano immediately becomes one of the frontrunners to crack the NHL roster and make an early impact, but he's also looking to learn along the way, especially from his idol Marian Hossa.

"It's a great opportunity for me to be on one team with [Hossa]," Dano told at the eighth annual Blackhawks Convention over the weekend. "There's a lot of things I could learn from him and all those other guys."

[MORE: Blackhawks: Schmaltz striving for improvement at prospect camp]

Ryan Hartman is another prospect knocking on the door. 

The Blackhawks' 2013 first-round pick spent the majority of last season with the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs, where he tallied 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 69 regular-season games and added two goals and an assist in eight postseason contests. Hartman, a Chicago native, also made his presence felt in five games with the Blackhawks last season.

While he certainly understands the importance of development, Hartman is looking to build off his brief stint in the NHL last year and seize the opportunity if and when he gets it again.

"Obviously there's some room for guys to hop in and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of guys up and down throughout the year," Hartman said. "Whenever you do get your chance, you just got to take advantage of that opportunity and hopefully you can stay as long as possible. That's kind of the mindset going into the season."

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the more exciting prospects is Nick Schmaltz, who drew some high remarks from general manager Stan Bowman — "He was very impressive all week" — at prospect camp. Schmaltz — the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft — continues to stand out at every level, and said he's gotten "a little stronger" this summer.

It may be tempting for Schmaltz, who grew up a Blackhawks fan, to rush the process, but the 19-year-old forward is staying patient and continues to focus on his development.

"I'm just trying to focus on my season and just getting better and what I need to do to get to the next level," Schmaltz said. "Obviously I want to get there as soon as I can, but whatever it takes to get there, if I need to develop longer in the minors or wherever, as long as one day I get there I'll be happy."

While competing for and solidifying a roster spot with the Blackhawks may be the ultimate goal, all three players are committed to improving their own game that will pay dividends in the NHL, which could be sooner rather than later.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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