Blackhawks

Frolik playing with confidence

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Frolik playing with confidence

The Chicago Blackhawks forward broke out on a rush last night and helped set up Dave Bolland's game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets. It was another good play by a guy who's gotten better since Day 1 of camp.

And it seems like it's only a matter of time that the numbers are going to start coming.

Michael Frolik has found his niche on the Blackhawks' checking line, a valuable partner to Bryan Bickell and Bolland. Frolik is a solid defensive player; and while the offensive threat has yet to be felt this season, the potential is there.

"Since the first time he's hit the ice (this fall) there's a real committed purpose to having a big year," coach Joel Quenneville said of Frolik. "You can see the pace to his game, he has the puck more and he does a lot of good things. His numbers haven't been reflective of how effective he's been this year."

Frolik's confidence was shaky when he first arrived in February, the acquisition when the Blackhawks traded Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. Frolik had had two 21-goal seasons in a row but had just nine goals when the trade occurred.

"When I came here it wasn't good. I couldn't score for that long stretch but the guys helped me here," he said. "Coach just said, 'Don't worry about it and just play the game. The points will come.' So I tried not to think about it."

By the postseason it was obvious Frolik was feeling better about his game. He especially excelled once he, Bickell and Bolland reunited after Bolland's injury, and his Game 6 penalty shot helped the Blackhawks force Game 7 against Vancouver.

Frolik rode that wave entering this preseason. A new three-year contract didn't hurt, either.

"It's nice when you have that," Frolik said. "You don't have to worry about next year and how you season's going to be. You're more comfortable. I can set up here and live a while here I hope."

Frolik is in a good place on and off the ice. He's found great chemistry with Bickell and Bolland. He's got himself a new place to live downtown. The confidence is evident in his game, and he can only go up from here.

"Michael's game has been elevated. It trended last year and really hit the high note in the playoffs; and he's taken off at that same level this year," Quenneville said. "We like his commitment to being a consistent player day in and day out."

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

One of the Blackhawks’ priorities this summer is to add pieces that will help shore up the defensive part of their game after they gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season. And they didn’t waste much time doing it.

Less than a week before the 2019 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks announced Saturday that they have acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Maatta is 24 years old, carries a left-handed shot and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he battled injuries last season and fell out of favor in Pittsburgh, where he was a healthy scratch for three games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks are hoping a fresh start could help Maatta find his game again, and do it in a place that may better utilize his skill-set. Where he could help is in the defensive part. 

According to The Point, Maatta ranked 9th among defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

Maatta, who was taken in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2012, had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he tallied 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games. He has three years remaining on his deal that carries a $4.083 million cap hit.

It’s worth noting that when Maatta signing his extension with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2016, the contract included a modified no-trade clause in his final two years, according to Cap Friendly. The Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

The Blackhawks are expected to have some heavy competition among the forwards at training camp with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. That likely made Kahun expendable despite a rookie season in which he compiled 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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