Blackhawks

Kane returns, looking for quick start

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Kane returns, looking for quick start

Patrick Kane stood in front of the media throng on Thursday.
Five stitches dotted his upper lip, a parting gift from his final Swiss League game.
Caught an elbow to the face; its part of hockey, Kane, who played for EHC Biel from October until the lockout ended on Sunday, said. It was pretty painful. I was nervous how the doctors over there were going to do stitching my face. But I checked in here and they said they did a good job.
But the Chicago Blackhawks right wing got more than a sewn-up lip out of his Swiss play. He got plenty of games under his belt -- just about all of them at right wing -- and stayed in game form throughout the lengthy lockout. And Kane, who along with Viktor Stalberg, Nick Leddy, Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell returned to Johnnys IceHouse skates on Thursday, hopes that overseas work translates into a fast start back here.
I think its going to be big for me, said Kane, who played eight games in 10 days, including five in as many nights, in his waning days in Switzerland. It was really good for my conditioning, skating and playing on the bigger ice. For all of us, its going to be an adjustment period (here). But Im happy I did it. It was a good experience and hopefully it helped.
Kane went to Europe early in the lockout, heading to Biel, Switzerland in early October. He tallied 13 goals and 10 assists in 20 games with EHC Biel, and played several games for HC Davos in the Spengler Cup. Kane said he didnt work on any specific part of his game overseas, other than to score goals as often as he could. The biggest goal was to stay sharp for whenever if ever the lockout ended.
If the lockout was going to go on, (playing overseas) was something I needed to do, Kane said. I felt I was just waiting around, waiting for hockey to start. I realized when I was playing my best hockey I was playing a lot. I figured I might as well get a head start for the (NHL) season when it did start back up, that maybe Id have a little bit of an advantage. Thats really the only reason.
Its reason enough, and Kane looked sharp skating around on Thursday. As players keep returning, so do the good vibes. When asked about Jonathan Toews role as coach on Thursday, Kane couldnt resist.
He talks a little too much. Were trying to shut him up, Kane said. Thankfully we have camp starting soon and get a real coach out there.
Camps are slated to start on Sunday, a day after the NHLPA should have the new collective bargaining agreement ratified. The Blackhawks are like every other team, hoping to get off to a fast start. Kane is looking for the same out of his game. He shouldve gotten the jump-start from the same place he got those stitches.
Ive always prided myself on getting off to a quick start; I usually have success doing that, Kane said. Hopefully I can continue it throughout the year.

Change of plans? Adam Boqvist could start season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Change of plans? Adam Boqvist could start season with Blackhawks

That was quick. 

Hours after we wrote how Adam Boqvist has been flying under the radar this training camp because his NHL timeline could still be 2-3 years away — something even he admitted after the Blackhawks drafted him No. 8 overall in June — he put on a strong showing in his second preseason game on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings playing on the top pairing and leading the team in ice time (22:15). 

His offensive skill is evident. So is his general skating ability. What really stood out was how he defended, particularly a 1-on-1 rush against the speedy Andreas Athanasiou.

This is the play that got Blackhawks fans excited. This is a player who has the ability to speed up his timeline if he takes advantage of this next year of development, which won’t begin in London on Friday after coach Joel Quenneville told reporters following Thursday’s contest that his debut with the Knights in the OHL is being put on hold because they want a longer look at him.

In fact, Quenneville didn’t rule out the possibility of Boqvist making the Blackhawks straight out of camp.

"I think as we've gone through camp and see him play through the games, we're watching him," Quenneville said. "We've been pleased with him. It's almost like, when you come to camp, we want to watch these guys. They make those decisions for us with how they play and it's been a positive one."

But that doesn’t mean he’d necessarily stick around for the full season.

Because he’s 18 years of age, Boqvist is eligible to play in up to nine games before getting sent to his respective junior team without burning the first year of his entry-level deal. He’s a slide candidate next year as well. It’s what the Blackhawks did with Ryan Hartman, who appeared in five games in 2014-15 and three games in 2015-16 before securing a full-time spot in 2016-17. That's the likely scenario if it were to reach that point.

It's hard to imagine the Blackhawks breaking in each of their top-two defensive prospects in Henri Jokiharju and Boqvist at the same time. And for Boqvist, you certainly don't want to waste any years of his entry-level contract when he could be using that time to truly develop so he could hit the ground running when he does enter the league on a full-time basis.

Perhaps the back injury to Connor Murphy, who is expected to be out until December, allowed the Blackhawks to view Boqvist's situation in a wider lense. Or maybe this was the plan all along.

Regardless, the Blackhawks may get a glimpse of the future quicker than they thought and it’s added a little excitement to training camp and the anticipation of Opening Day.

 

Adam Boqvist absorbing as much as he can from Blackhawks veterans in first training camp

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AP

Adam Boqvist absorbing as much as he can from Blackhawks veterans in first training camp

When development camp rolled around in mid-July, all eyes were on No. 8 overall pick Adam Boqvist, who had immediately become Chicago's top prospect.

That hasn't been the case in training camp.

We're one week in and the storylines have been dominated by Corey Crawford's status, Connor Murphy's back injury that could now sideline him up to 12 weeks and what it means for the defense, Henri Jokiharju's chances at making the big club and the new forward lines, most notably Brandon Saad being put with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz.

Why? Because all the attention in September is how the Blackhawks are going to bounce back after missing the postseason for the first time since 2007-08. And also, because Boqvist may still be 2-3 years away from playing in the NHL on a full-time basis.

Still, the Blackhawks very much are monitoring his progression this week and view him as a big part of the future. They got their first glimpse of Boqvist in game action in Tuesday's preseason opener vs. Columbus, which admittedly wasn't his best game —  he was on the ice for six shot attempts for and 16 against at even strength, the worst differential on the team — but the most important part of it was simply getting a feel for the pace and the size of the players he's going up against.

"I was a little nervous when I saw Seth Jones, those types of players, I've looked up to them, so that was a little bit [nerve-wracking]," Boqvist said. "But you're there for one thing, so go out and play your best game.

"I think I did pretty well out there. The game was not the best one, but a preseason game is a preseason game, so I hope I can [make] some steps."

Asked how important it was to actually get thrown into a game rather than a team practice or scrimmage, Boqvist didn't undermine it even though it was only a preseason game.

"It's huge," he said. "It's not like back home in Sweden at the juniors. It was a huge difference. How you can defend on smaller ice and when you should go or not go. I've learned a lot from the older guys here and hope they can help me this season."

From development camp to team practices and scrimmages to preseason games, coach Joel Quenneville is impressed with what he sees early on and had some high praise for the 18-year-old defenseman.

"Good, good," he said. "We liked him. We think that he can make some real special plays. Real good patience and play recognition. High end. Terrific shot. Deceptive as well.

"Watching him in the summer as well, he's got a great level of skill, play recognition, patience with possession of the puck. He's going to learn quickly that you got bigger guys, guys that know how to play and hold onto the puck and how to defend those situations in tight areas and with possession against you, so that's one of the learning curves that he's going through. But overall, he's what you call smooth as [Duncan Keith] says or [Patrick Kane] says."

Boqvist will be playing in Thursday's preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings, and will likely play a larger role in it with the top guys on the blue line staying home. It could also be his last one, with the OHL's London Knights season beginning Friday.

The Blackhawks want to make sure Boqvist is maximizing his experience here while he is around the Duncan Keith's and Brent Seabrook's, before taking everything he learned with him to London ahead of a crucial year of development.

"It's so cool to be around these NHL players," Boqvist said. "I try to enjoy so much here and take all the stuff I can from the guys here, so hope they can help me."