Blackhawks

Despite lengthy rest, Blackhawks remain focused on Ducks

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Despite lengthy rest, Blackhawks remain focused on Ducks

The Blackhawks have enjoyed a rare postseason privilege this week: off days.

While the Eastern Conference second-round series continue on Tuesday, the Blackhawks have relaxed, practiced a time or two, and relaxed some more. As far as getting completely away from hockey, however, the Blackhawks aren’t doing that.

“You don’t want to let your mind wander too much,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you have your sights set on your next opponent and you know when the date is, it’s great to be able to snap back into it and knowing, the couple days leading up to it you need to be where you would be if it was a game day.

[MORE HAWKS: Ducks quickly shift their attention to Blackhawks]

The Blackhawks don’t know the dates yet but they do know their opponent. And whether practicing or taking an off day, their minds are completely focused on the Anaheim Ducks right now.

The extended time off presents a challenge: get rest but stay sharp. Coach Joel Quenneville has never been big on lengthy practices; a “long” practice runs about 45 minutes. But when the Blackhawks do practice they’re not coasting out there.

“Sometimes you’ve got to make sure you balance it when it gets a little longer… where it’s almost, let’s try something different in practice, simulate a game situation,” Quenneville said. “Or we get the feel of the puck, feel of the play, that first game type of intensity that’s going to be there.”

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Whenever a team is off for a while, there’s the inevitable question: will players be rusty when they do return? The Blackhawks had six days off between finishing their first-round series against the Nashville Predators to starting their second-round session vs. the Minnesota Wild. That layoff didn’t hurt them; the Blackhawks scored three goals in the first period of Game 1. Given the gravity of the postseason, the Blackhawks should be ready when this series starts, too.

“You kind of get in that routine of every-other-day games and getting that momentum and playing, getting into the games. It’s kinda tough [with time off], but it’s also nice to have the rest,” Bryan Bickell said. “These last practices have been a good pace and it gets us ready for the game.”

The Blackhawks have enjoyed their days off, from Bickell’s day of fishing to players spending time with family and friends. But at this time of year, the game and the next opponent is never too far in the back of their minds.

“It’s nice to be here, sleep in your own bed and not a hotel, things like that,” Duncan Keith said. “[But] you’re always focused on hockey no matter what, watching the games and thinking about the next series.”

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

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

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."

NHL Draft Profile: D Rasmus Dahlin

NHL Draft Profile: D Rasmus Dahlin

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

Rasmus Dahlin

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 181 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"Is the clear-cut No. 1, pro ready prospect for the 2018 draft. He has the skating, skills and elite hockey sense that can dictate the style of play and the pace of a game, whether it's with or without the puck. He finds ways to contribute and get the job done in all situations."

NHL player comparable: Nicklas Lidstrom

Fit for Blackhawks:

There is zero chance the Blackhawks can snag Dahlin, because it's highly unlikely the Buffalo Sabres would consider moving out of the No. 1 spot, and even if they did it would require a king's ransom. But for the sake of this exercise, what would Dahlin do for the Blackhawks organization?

Well, he's a player who immediately slots into your Top 4 and has the potential to emerge as Chicago's best defenseman in the next year or two. We're seeing it in Boston with Charlie McAvoy, Philadelphia with Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, and Columbus with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones where these young defensemen are changing the directions of their franchise's.

That's what Dahlin would do for the Blackhawks, who are in desperate need of a young, impact blue liner. Now back to reality.