Blackhawks

Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

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Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

Steve Montador didnt draw it up like this, but hes not complaining.

One of the Blackhawks newest defensemen has been on a scoring streak lately, accumulating three goals and an assist in his past two games. Its something he enjoys being a part of, as a player but especially as a defenseman.

I just want to take advantage of opportunities Im getting, he said. And lately its just been that.

And hes not alone.

After a quiet start, at least offensively, the Blackhawks defensemen are making themselves known in the scoring category. In the past three games, they have tallied 16 points; compare that to the 24 points they had in the first 14 games.

Nick Leddy was the only blue-liner putting up points early; now they all are. Montadors ignited his scoring, an aspect that the Blackhawks hoped he would provide when they signed him to a four-year deal this past summer. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook scored their first goals this week. And its made a difference in the Blackhawks games and, naturally, the outcomes.

The defense is a big part of the attack on offense and their results have been showing on the score sheet, coach Joel Quenneville said. We need that for our overall team game.

Its helped improve the power play, too. The Blackhawks obviously have the talent for that to thrive, but they were struggling to get shots through from the blue line. Those shots, and the chances of their being tipped, deflected or rebounded, are big. Now, perhaps thanks to the boost of confidence in back, the shots are reaching down front.

Weve talked about it long before it was happening on the score sheet, Montador said of the defensive scoring. A lot of goals start from point shots for tips and rebounds. It was just a matter of time.

Now it may also be a matter of stepping up even more. Seabrook suffered a leg injury Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers, and his status for Wednesdays game against Vancouver, let alone the rest of this trip, is uncertain. The Blackhawks have depth back there and will have to utilize it if Seabrook is out for any length of time.

The defense is finding its niche right now. Every one of them is contributing with or without the puck especially with it. If they have a gap with Seabrooks absence, theyll have to find a way to fill it. The confidence among the whole group right now could also help get them through.

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.

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."