Blackhawks

Blackhawks sign prospect John Hayden to two-year deal

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AP

Blackhawks sign prospect John Hayden to two-year deal

The Blackhawks announced Sunday that they've signed John Hayden to a two-year contract that runs through the 2017-18 season.

The 22-year-old forward served as the captain for Yale University during his senior campaign, and set career highs with 21 goals, 13 assists and 34 points in 33 games, which helped him become a 2017 Hobey Baker Award candidate for NCAA's top player.

He compiled 50 goals and 41 assists in 127 career games throughout his four-year career at Yale.

At 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Hayden is a big, physical forward who has played both wing and center.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Hayden will join the Blackhawks on Monday.

"We'll get to see him play," Quenneville said. "We've seen him a lot in prospect camps, development camps. He's a hard-working type of guy, one of those guys along the wall, in front of the net and he has some physicality to his game, greasiness at the net. So we're looking forward to seeing how he handles it up here and how he fits in. He gives us some size and aggressiveness."

He's a player who will surely compete for a full-time spot on the Blackhawks in training camp next season, and there's a real chance he can slide into the lineup right away, given his size. 

Because his season has concluded at Yale, Hayden will likely join the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League for the remainder of the year and is eligible to join the Blackhawks as soon as this season.

He was drafted in the third round (No. 74 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, and was set to become a free agent in August.

Why Blackhawks are eager for 'heck of an opportunity' ahead of NHL's restart

Why Blackhawks are eager for 'heck of an opportunity' ahead of NHL's restart

When the NHL paused its season on March 12, the Blackhawks had a 2.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Hockey Reference. They were six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference and had four teams to jump, which would have been virtually impossible with only three weeks of hockey left.

But because of the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the league was forced to get creative about its Return to Play plan and announced a 24-team format in May. The Blackhawks, as we know, were the final team in the West to get in.

And while it may not feel like their postseason drought has ended, the Blackhawks won't apologize for it. They've been handed a gift and want to take advantage of this new life.

"It's a heck of an opportunity," Jonathan Toews said after Day 1 of training camp. "We were kind of going down that road where our playoff chances were dwindling. It would've been a long-shot otherwise, but we were able to sneak in under these rules and under this format, so it's an opportunity for all of us. Regardless of whether there's fans in the building or not, there's something to play for."

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You won't find a bigger competitor than Duncan Keith, who's a two-time Norris Trophy winner and wears his emotions on his sleeve. He wants to get back to playing consistent playoff hockey and is as motivated about the restart as anyone. Just check his Instagram page.

"The biggest thing is just the fact that we're getting a chance to compete and be in the playoffs," Keith said. "You go back to the regular season, we were several points out and it wasn't looking good. Now we're in this opportunity — it's a great opportunity for us to try to prove that we deserve to be in the playoffs. ... We know we've got our work cut out for us, but I think as a group, we're excited to have this opportunity and show that we belong and that we could make some noise as an underdog."

On one end of the spectrum, you have a group of multiple Stanley Cup winners hungry to play meaningful hockey again. On the other end, you have a group of young players that haven't had a taste of the postseason yet and are itching to find out, even though there won't be any fans in attendance.

Put the groups together and you have a hungry Blackhawks squad that's eager to show they can make a potential run.

"It's good experience for everyone because the veteran guys that have played a lot of playoff hockey have never been through something like this before and the young guys who have never played in the playoffs, there's no better opportunity to try and get your feet wet and try and show your teammates what you can do," Toews said. "So, every game, that thought of the Cup being on the line has to be in the back of your mind. You win one game, there's no telling how far you can go, so we'll really try and build that feeling and that mindset in the locker room over the next couple weeks before we start."

Podcast: Corey Crawford deemed "unfit to play" by the Blackhawks

Podcast: Corey Crawford deemed "unfit to play" by the Blackhawks

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was not at practice for the Hawks' Day 1 of Phase 3 training camp as they prepare to play the Edmonton Oilers and was deemed "unfit to play" according to Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton and GM Stan Bowman. On this fresh Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis, and Scott King discuss what the NHL's new term "unfit to play" means and if Crawford be able to get ready before the matchup vs the Oilers. Later on, the crew gives their thoughts on what they saw from Hawks practice and what Brent Seabrook looked like on the ice after being out since December following three surgeries.

(1:30) - Jeremy Colliton and Stan Bowman on Corey Crawford being "unfit to play"

(6:38) - Who can replace Corey Crawford if he isn't available to play?

(12:00) - How did Brent Seabrook look on the ice after being out?

(17:00) - Jonathan Toews has a new appreciation for Chicago, and hockey

(22:00) - More news and tidbits from Hawks practice

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