Blackhawks

Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

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Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

DENVER -- Patrick Sharp has noticed the increased "noise" level with these Chicago Blackhawks.

"We were just flying over from Phoenix (and later) sitting on the bus there's a lot of hooting and hollering. A lot of guys are having fun with each other and it's just two weeks into the season," Sharp said. "That's a good sign. The chemistry's there."

And apparently, so is the fun again.

The Blackhawks are halfway through their first road trip, a two-game stint that wraps up Thursday night when they play the Colorado Avalanche. The road is a good time for longtime team members and new acquisitions to gel, to get to know each other. But with this year's group of Blackhawks, that camaraderie was evident on and off the ice before they even hit the road.

"It feels comfortable. There's no separation between new players and players that have been here for a while," Jonathan Toews said recently. "We haven't spent a lot of time on the road but everyone's getting to know each other pretty well whether hanging around or outside the rink. There's a togetherness and we're feeling that on the ice, too."

That feeling was missing for most of last season. The Blackhawks didn't have a bad locker room in 2010-11, they just had a quiet one. A too-quiet one. The massive turnover was one reason, the youth on the roster was another. Guys were young and unsure where they even fit into the lineup and probably not confident in piping up.

The latest "new guys" aren't new to the NHL. Their games and personalities were established well before they joined the Blackhawks. So now, as much as the Blackhawks have balance on the ice they have personality off it. And everyone is appreciating the more energetic and talkative room.

"You go back a couple years ago, guys enjoyed being around each other. This group is a lot more vocal," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There's a lot more noise on the buses and planes we didn't see last year and that's a good thing. It'll probably get more entertaining and amusing as we go along."

There's no doubt this is a different room this season. You see it and hear it when you walk in; these guys talk, they joke, they make themselves heard. And if they're doing that during the practice days, they're probably doing it more during game intermissions, too.

The newest Blackhawks have felt welcome from the start. Sean O'Donnell enjoyed a good-natured ribbing from his new teammates when he turned 40 last week. Daniel Carcillo has certainly added to the room's buzz. Jamal Mayers said it's easy for the veterans to mesh with these Blackhawks.

"The leadership group here was already established. We just want to be pieces of the puzzle," he said. "The honest truth is you just want to be authentic and yourself and do the things you have your whole career. You just come into the room and be yourself."

The Blackhawks have found their voices again. The "noise" is back, and it's a welcome sound.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

Marian Hossa came out of Wednesday night's game fine after missing Saturday with an upper-body injury. He was practicing again on Thursday.

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.

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.