Jordin Tootoo ready for postseason opportunity with Blackhawks

Jordin Tootoo ready for postseason opportunity with Blackhawks

Jordin Tootoo was part of that Nashville Predators-Blackhawks series in 2010. Ask him what he remembers from those six games, and he gives a what-do-you-think smile.

"Marian Hossa taking a five-minute major, coming out of the penalty box and scoring the OT winner," Tootoo said with a laugh. "Basically sums it up."

Sure, that memory ranks high for many regardless of allegiance. But that series was also the start of a great, intense rivalry between the two teams, something that will resume on Thursday.

"Lot of emotions. Lot of battles, and that's what playoff hockey is all about. I think over the years, you create that energy and I think every guy wants to be a part of something special," he said. "I could remember when we tried to play the Blackhawks, it was going to be a battle. It's fun hockey."

Fast forward to the present day and for Tootoo, this series is about a few things. It's about facing his former team, with whom he started his career, went through some rough times and then started to get his life back together.

It's also about reality: at 34, Tootoo doesn't know how many more chances at a Stanley Cup he'll get. He wants to make the most of this one.

Tootoo will be part of the Blackhawks' fourth-line rotation when they open their first-round series against the Predators on Thursday night. He has been in and out of the lineup this season but has been good when he's played. His last game against the Predators, in which he scored his first goal with the Blackhawks, was one of his best of the season.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Tootoo has been a team-first guy all season.

"It's gotta be an exciting time for him. He has a great history there and certainly brought a lot to our team this year. He's been very well liked and accepted by his teammates, brings an element to our team you need at times and applied it at the perfect moments this year," Quenneville said. "He's worked hard as the season progressed and gives us an option to have that type of guy in our lineup. As we go along here, we'll see. But certainly put him in a position to start with us. You need that type of guy. He knows the role, job description and importance. We're looking forward for him to be a part of it."

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Tootoo has garnered teammates' respect, be it his work ethic – he's usually the first guy on the ice at practice – to his words. Tootoo gave a second-intermission pep talk prior to the Blackhawks scoring five third-period goals to beat the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, on March 19. As far as being in the postseason lineup (at least for now), Tootoo is ready for the chance.

"At this point in my career, everything is a bonus here," Tootoo said. "But it's a business. For me, I try to use every day to get better both on and off the ice. It's a privilege to play this game and (this is) the best time of year – to be playing in the playoffs."

Nashville will always be a special part of Tootoo's life. He started his NHL career there, spent eight seasons there, began his now six years of sobriety there. Right now, however, the drive for the Stanley Cup looms larger. 
"I think personally, for me, you want to have a bit more bite, and I'm definitely going to have that," Tootoo said. "I played a lot of years in Nashville. I have great memories there. But I'm a Blackhawk now and I'm going to do whatever it takes."

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."