The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.
Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready?
Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.
While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.
"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."
Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."
Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."
The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.
Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.
For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.
"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.
Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.
"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."
That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.
Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.
At 2:50 pm, HPS recovered the body of former @NHL player Ray Emery, 35. Emery was reported missing just after 6:00 am in #HamOnt harbour. His body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen. Family has been notified. Cause of death to be confirmed pending a PM.— Hamilton Police (@HamiltonPolice) July 15, 2018
According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.
Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.
In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.
The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:
The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.
The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:
The NHLPA’s players and staff send our heartfelt condolences to Ray Emery’s family and friends, following the terrible tragedy that occurred earlier today. Ray will be missed by his many friends within the hockey community.— NHLPA (@NHLPA) July 15, 2018
Such sad news about Ray Emery. He will be greatly missed. An incredible teammate with a huge heart.— Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0) July 15, 2018
On the passing of Ray Emery… pic.twitter.com/aR17IBFE0d— Kyle Dubas (@kyledubas) July 15, 2018
Condolences to family and friends. From the AHL to the NHL Ray was always in our face. Major competitor. Got to later share a golf cart for a round with him and meet the man. Easy as hell to hang and talk and laugh with. Tragic loss. https://t.co/KnYdUqkDrd— Colby Armstrong (@armdog) July 15, 2018
I am fucking crushed. You will be missed deeply Ray. I love you man.— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) July 15, 2018
Lost my golfing buddy and best friend today. Uncle Ray Ray touched a lot of hearts and people. Love and miss ya https://t.co/BekxgI5Dgm— Dave Bolland (@DaveBolland) July 15, 2018
Ray was a great teammate and an even better friend. Rest in peace Razor. I’ll miss you man. pic.twitter.com/NNHNc1Swyd— Claude Giroux (@28CGiroux) July 15, 2018
So saddened of the tragic news of Ray Emery’s passing. We played together for only a short time but he was a great teammate and competitor. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. May he Rest In Peace. 🙏— Nick Foligno (@NickFoligno) July 15, 2018
Just awful news to read. Played in a charity hockey game with him last night and was smiling the whole time. Thoughts and prayers to his friends and family. RIP https://t.co/vPOZGKz8jG— Dylan Strome (@stromer19) July 15, 2018
Horrible to hear about Ray Emery. He was an incredible teammate. #Razor— William Nylander (@wmnylander) July 15, 2018
So sad to hear the tragic news about Ray Emery- was a great teammate and person #rip— James van Riemsdyk (@JVReemer21) July 15, 2018
Rest In Peace Razor. Going to miss you brother. pic.twitter.com/u8vfmS091b— Max Domi (@max_domi) July 15, 2018