Blackhawks

Toews: "We're getting that swagger back"

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Toews: "We're getting that swagger back"

What a difference a few tweaks make.

Yes, its hardly a secret that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will make tweaks, switches, alterations, whatever you want to call them, when things arent going so well. He was doing it again this week.

Two games, a few changes and 10 goals later, the Blackhawks are liking what theyre seeing. Theyre back to playing complete games again, and back atop the Western Conference standings again.

We witnessed two games where it was easy to make alterations with the lines. The way weve come out of it, I feel theres balance on the offensive and the defensive side of things, Quenneville said. Seeing our four-line rotation improve, thats what we wanted. Weve seen it better in the last two games, so we like that trend.

The winning trend doesnt hurt, either. Even when the Blackhawks were grabbing three out of four points in Florida, things were starting to look a little shaky. The defensive pairings were fine, but the true chemistry just wasnt there. As for the forward lines, Patrick Kanes trio was rolling along splendidly. Others were more hit and miss. And when Kanes group got quiet, the others didnt fill in the void.

So change was gonna come. It did, and its working. How, you say? A few reasons
Familiarity: This is especially true among the defensemen, where Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are together again. Yes, theyre two world-class defensemen who can play with anyone, but theyre still at their best when together.
Speed kills: Kanes line already had plenty of this, but even with changes they havent lost a step with Dan Carcillo and Patrick Sharp flanking him now. The top line needed to get that back again, and now has thanks to Viktor Stalberg and Marian Hossa joining Jonathan Toews. Those changes were especially evident against Calgary on Friday, when the top two lines seemed to skate at will.

On my line, with the speed of Stally and Hoss, we feel like were getting chances off the rush every single shift, Toews said. The rest of our lines have been playing well offensively.

The Blackhawks have been rolling again these past two games, and it doesnt come a moment too soon. That monstrosity known as the Circus Trip is looming, and the Blackhawks want to be playing their road-trip best hockey on it.

All it took was a few little tweaks.

Were getting that swagger and that energy back on 5 on 5 and we had it (Friday) night, Toews said. Were back to playing our team game the way we wanted to these past few games. We have to hang onto that and keep building on it.

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

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AP

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

The 2019 NHL Draft is 48 hours away from now and the Blackhawks are slated to pick third overall for the first time since 2006 when they took Jonathan Toews. Coincidentally, that draft happened to be in Vancouver. 

The Blackhawks are sitting in a unique spot this time around.

The consensus is that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko will go first and second overall, respectively, which essentially puts the Blackhawks in a position where they have the first overall pick in a different draft. There's a large group of players to choose from and there doesn't appear to be much separation amongst them.

So would the Blackhawks consider trading out of the No. 3 spot if a team wants to make the jump and the Blackhawks feel good about their player being on the board a few picks back?

"That’s a tough question to answer because it's not like we have a magic formula that we’re waiting for some to call and offer us," GM Stan Bowman said on Wednesday during his pre-draft conference call. "If somebody made a really appealing offer then we’d have to consider it, but that hasn’t happened yet. If it does, then as a group we’ll talk about it. That’s one of those things where a team has to want to put together a really appealing package to move up. It’s happened before, pretty rare though. So I wouldn't say it's out of the realm, but it’s unlikely to happen."

All signs point to the Blackhawks keeping their pick at No. 3, as expected. And it sounds like they already know who it's going to be, which isn't surprising considering the Blackhawks have done extensive research on the prospects — both on and off the ice — for months now.

The Blackhawks staff met on Wednesday a group, they'll meet again on Thursday, and then one more time on Friday before the draft to finalize their list. At this point, it's more about ironing out the later rounds.

"It’s more just fine-tuning the list," Bowman said. "We have more than just one pick in the draft. We’re looking at players we think are going to be around in the second round, and then we don’t have a third-round pick right now so there’s a bit of a gap there between our 43rd and then the two picks in the fourth round. So we have to look at that and determine which players we’re going to target for those rounds. I wouldn’t say there’s anything new that's being discovered at this time of year.

"We’re not going to be cramming last minute. I think we’re going to be very comfortable with the guy we pick when we get to Friday night."

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2019 NHL Draft Profile: D Bowen Byram

2019 NHL Draft Profile: D Bowen Byram

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Bowen Byram

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

"He's had an outstanding year. Second half of the year he's really been outstanding. He really kind of drew a lot of attention to himself. Well-deserved. He's a dynamic player and he affects the outcome of a game."

Byram describes his own game:

On Duncan Keith comparisons: "I would say that’s pretty accurate. He’s a really energetic guy, good on both sides of the puck, kills penalties, runs the power play. That’s kind of how I’d describe myself, for sure. That’s definitely a fair comparison."

NHL player comparable: Duncan Keith

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks have used their last three first-round picks on defensemen, but positional needs aren't a priority when you're drafting this high — although, in the grand scheme of things, it's a pressing need despite the overflow of defensemen in the pipeline. TSN's Craig Button has said multiple times on the Hawks Talk Podcast that Byram is a future No. 1 defenseman in the NHL, and he would immediately become the top prospect in the organization.

Byram, known for his swagger and two-way game, has drawn comparisons to Drew Doughty and Keith, both of whom have won a Norris Trophy — Keith has two. More importantly, Doughty and Keith also have their names on the Stanley Cup multiple times and were both driving forces during those title runs. These are the types of defensemen you win championships with.

Byram set records in the Western Hockey League as a 17-year-old, and he could probably step into the pros immediately. But that's asking a lot for a defenseman, so he'd be more likely to become an everyday NHL player starting in 2020-21.

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