Blackhawks

How 'crazy' OHL season has Graham Knott ready for Blackhawks camp

How 'crazy' OHL season has Graham Knott ready for Blackhawks camp

Graham Knott started last season with the Niagara IceDogs, where the Blackhawks prospect was expected to be one of the veteran leaders on a young team. A month later that all changed; Knott was traded to the Windsor Spitfires, a strong team that was guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup because it was the tournament host.

A 44-day layoff and a great tournament later, Knott and the Spitfires were claiming the team’s third Memorial Cup since 2009.

“Yeah, it was crazy,” Knott said of unexpected events this season. “I was going to be relied on as a leader [with Niagara]. But I got traded and then was fortunate enough to go there, play on a good team. We had a chance to go in for the Memorial Cup and it was all uphill from there.”

The move provided Knott valuable experience as well as a championship. He had three goals and an assist in four Memorial Cup games, including the game-tying goal in the title game against the Erie Otters. Now Knott’s attention turns to prospect camp and then training camp, where he’ll see his chances of making the Blackhawks.

Knott will enter this Blackhawks prospect camp with a contract, the three-year, entry-level deal he signed last September. The 6-foot-4, 194-pound Knott would bring size and a habit of hanging around the net, something the Blackhawks will gladly take. Knott hasn’t had much of an offseason thus far but prepping for Blackhawks camps will start soon.

“I took it easy after we won [on May 28] so I can’t take any more days off. Get back into the gym, stay in shape,” he said. “I played not too long ago, so I’m in somewhat game shape, continue work in staying elite shape and up my strength. Coming to prospect camp, it’s fun. It’s going to be a good year. Hopefully I’ll show Chicago that I’m ready for the pros.”

As great as the Memorial Cup experience was, waiting to play in it was interesting. After being eliminated in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the Spitfires went 44 days without a hockey game. That’s when Knott and teammates were introduced to then coach Rocky Thompson’s phase-focused plan.

“Phase 1 was [practicing] five days a week for about two weeks. We tapered off Phase 2 and 3 leading up to tournament, but Phase 1 was a battle: two workouts a day, skate, up at 7 a.m. and running hills,” Knott said. “We didn’t take any time off. We got back into it, really drove to be successful and we were.

“Rocky had a very good plan,” Knott said of Thompson, who was named the Chicago Wolves’ new coach on Wednesday. “Going so far early and tapering off was perfect. Everyone was in good shape, everyone was healthy. We took on game 1 and we were flying. We went up from there, kept getting better and better.”

Knott had plenty thrown at him this past season, from trades to long waits to championships. Now to see where he falls in the Blackhawks’ plans.

“You can’t sit on the sidelines and look at the lineup and see where you fall in and which place you take. I have to go in and work my hardest,” Knott said. “I know what kind of player I am and if I can play my game I’ll hopefully be ready to go.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddie Olczyk joins to discuss the NHL return to play plan

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USA Today

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Eddie Olczyk joins to discuss the NHL return to play plan

Laurence Holmes, David Haugh and Gordon Wittenmyer join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The animosity between MLB owners and players continues. Does it now seem less likely that we will have baseball in 2020?

10:00 - Eddie Olczyk joins Kap to talk about the NHL’s restart plan and the Blackhawks chances once the games resume.

19:00 - The NBA is still working on its restart plan. So the Bulls be a part of it when the league resumes?
 

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

When the NHL announced its new 24-team playoff format, it also declared the regular season completed. That means that the 189 games remaining on the regular season calendar will not be played, and all regular season statistics are final.

The league also announced that the qualifying round and round robin games are not technically playoff games, creating a kind of limbo between the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

A lot of questions have been raised about the stats in these purgatorial games for record-keeping purposes. It seems we now have an answer:

 

The NHL announced the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Jennings Trophy winners on Thursday, officially marking the end of regular season stat-keeping. So while the play-in and round robin games will not officially count as playoff games, any points, saves or other statistics accrued will officially count as playoff stats for players. 

What does this all mean for the Blackhawks? A few things.

For one, it means that Jonathan Toews’ streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals is now over at 12, as he finishes the 2019-20 campaign with a career-low 18 goals. 

Entering this season, the only three players who had scored 20 or more goals in each of the last 12 seasons were Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. Kane (13 seasons) and Ovechkin (15), who extended their streaks in 2019-20, are now the only two remaining on the list. 

It also means that Kane’s 84 points in 70 games gives him a point-per-game total of 1.20 for the season, the third best in his illustrious career. Kane finished with five goals in the final five games of the regular season, surpassing the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in his career. That ties Jeremy Roenick for the sixth most in Blackhawks franchise history. 

It means that Dominik Kubalik’s late Calder Trophy push comes to an early end, as well. He finishes his rookie season with 30 goals, tied with Artemi Panarin and Eric Daze for the third most by a Blackhawks rookie in franchise history. 

It means that Alex DeBrincat will not reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his young NHL career. After his 28-goal rookie season, DeBrincat followed up with 41 goals in 2018-19. But a 10% drop in his shooting percentage this season left him with just 18 — with a fresh three-year extension kicking in next season. 

The good news? While the Blackhawks’ play-in contests against the Edmonton Oilers won’t officially count as playoff games, youngsters like DeBrincat, Kubalik, Kirby Dach and others will get a crack at accumulating playoff points for the first time in their career. 

And for legends like Kane and Toews, it’s an opportunity to climb the all-time leaderboards.

Kane’s 123 playoff points ranks fourth in Blackhawks franchise history — six behind third-ranked Bobby Hull. Three more points also propels Kane into the top-50 all-time in NHL playoff points. Toews’ 110 points ranks sixth in Blackhawks franchise history, just a single point shy of Steve Larmer in fifth. 

One stat that might remain in limbo? Playoff wins by a goaltender.

Corey Crawford already owns the Blackhawks franchise record with 48 playoff wins, which ranks 22nd all-time in NHL history. However, if he’s able to lead the Blackhawks to three wins and an upset of the Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round, will those count towards his playoff win total? That remains to be seen. Only 19 goalies in league history have ever amassed 50 or more playoff wins.

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