Blackhawks

Craig Anderson impressed by 'hotbed of hockey' in Chicago

Craig Anderson impressed by 'hotbed of hockey' in Chicago

LAS VEGAS – Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson was one of those kids who grew up playing hockey in the Chicago area when it wasn’t incredibly popular. To see how popular youth hockey is there now, the Park Ridge native is impressed.

“Hockey in Chicago’s grown quite a bit, Triple-A, Double-A, the last 15-20 years it’s exploded,” said Anderson of Chicago, where the NHL Draft will be held this weekend. “I’ve been able to see it first-hand when I grew up and see what it is today. I still have lots of friends who are coaching. It’s one of those things that, since [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews came in, it’s been the hotbed of hockey in the states.”

Anderson will continue to do his goalie school in the Chicago area; he said this summer he will do one in West Dundee but not at Johnny’s IceHouse. This week, however, Anderson is in Vegas as a nominee for the Masterton Trophy, given annually to the player who represents heart, perseverance and dedication.

It was a trying season for Anderson, who took several leaves of absence from the Senators this season as his wife, Nicholle, battled cancer. He came back to help the Senators reach the Eastern Conference final. Anderson said the great support he got from everyone, plus the right approached, was beneficial for him and his wife.

“It’s definitely been a year of ups and downs, being optimistic and staying positive has been the key,” Anderson said. “We’ve always looked forward and set our eye on the goal of being positive and always looking ahead.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Bryan Bickell will be honored at NHL Awards for perseverance he showed last season]

While the Senators’ playoff run ended in late May, the Andersons got great news around the same time: Nicholle announced on Twitter on May 27 that she was cancer free. Craig said Nicholle is doing well but “every day’s a little bit of a challenge.”

“She’s still trying to get her strength back," he said. "She’ll have a good day and the next day will be a low-key day where she has to rest. But for the most part, things are getting back to normal,” Anderson said. “She goes, goes goes and then she needs the rest. She can’t go the way she used to but it’s starting to come back.”

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.