Blackhawks

Blackhawks prospects Matthew Highmore, Nathan Noel win QMJHL title

Blackhawks prospects Matthew Highmore, Nathan Noel win QMJHL title

Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel finished off their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season on top.

The pair of Blackhawks prospects helped the Saint John Sea Dogs knock off the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 5-1 Wednesday to complete the series sweep and capture the President's Cup. Highmore scored a goal and two assists in the series-clinching victory, and finished second on the team with 24 points (six goals and 18 assists) in 18 playoff games.

Noel contributed with two goals and seven assists, two of them coming while shorthanded.

Highmore, 21, and Noel, 19, each signed entry-level contracts with the Blackhawks in March and April, both of which will begin in 2017-18.

The Sea Dogs will now advance to the Memorial Cup, where they will compete in a four-team, round-robin tournament from May 19-28 to determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League. One of those teams is likely to feature Blackhawks top prospect Alex DeBrincat and the Erie Otters, who own a 3-1 series lead in the Ontario Hockey League Championship Series.

What changes should Blackhawks make to power play?

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USA Today

What changes should Blackhawks make to power play?

In the month of October, no team scored fewer goals than the Blackhawks (25). Since the calendar flipped to November, no team has scored more goals than the Blackhawks (38).

Oh, how things can change in a month.

But the interesting part about the offensive turnaround is the fact the Blackhawks are doing it without having much power play success.

The Blackhawks have had 65 power-play opportunities this season and have converted on only nine of those attempts. That's a 13.8 percent success rate, which ranks 28th in the NHL.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton changed things up at the beginning of the month by dividing the units to spread the wealth rather than overload the first unit, the latter of which worked so well from December and on last season. 

It's time to go back to overloading the first unit.

Erik Gustafsson, who has three goals in his last four games, is finally looking like himself again after a 16-game goal drought to start the season. Patrick Kane is on a 10-game point streak. Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome have combined for 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in the last 10 games. And Jonathan Toews has nine points (three goals, six assists) in November after having only two points (one goal, one assist) in October.

There's a newfound confidence within the group, especially the top players, and reuniting the five of them could translate into power play success. 

And while we're on the subject: It's also time to put Kirby Dach on one of the two power play units.

He has seven points in a five-game point streak and four goals during that span. He's noticeably getting more and more comfortable each game and it's reached the point where giving him more responsibility wouldn't be overwhelming for the 18-year-old, who's ready for more ice time.

The Blackhawks' power play is the one area of their game that hasn't been consistent this season. If they can get it back to the level it was at during the second half of last season, it's scary to think what the ceiling of this team could be because it doesn't look like their 5-on-5 game or elite goaltending will drop off anytime soon.

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Blackhawks receive Joseph Cramarossa from the Penguins in minor league trade

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USA Today

Blackhawks receive Joseph Cramarossa from the Penguins in minor league trade

The Blackhawks have acquired forward Joseph Cramarossa from the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Graham Knott in a minor league trade. Cramarossa will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 27-year-old had three points (two goals, one assist) in nine games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this AHL season. Cramarossa was the alternate captain during the 2018-19 in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, playing 56 regular-season games, scoring four goals.

Cramarossa was initially drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft, making his NHL debut on the Ducks in 2016. He played with the Ducks until he was traded to the Vancouver in 2017, playing in 10 games for the Canucks. He signed with Calgary as a free agent in September 2017 before being acquired by the Penguins in February 2018. Throughout seven seasons in the AHL (2013-2019) playing for the Norfolk Admirals, San Diego Gulls, Stockton and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Cramarossa recorded 72 points (32G, 40A) in 294 regular-season games.

Graham Knott is a 22-year-old forward selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft. Knott had eight goals in 126 career games with the IceHogs. The Blackhawks have now traded their top draft selections from 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2009. Only Dach (2019), Boqvist (2018) and DeBrincat (2016) remain from this decade.

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