David Kampf

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

Behind the Numbers: Blackhawks third line driving possession against top competition

During the Blackhawks' training camp festival on Sept. 15, coach Jeremy Colliton discovered a combination he's grown to like in David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad. And it's the only trio that's stuck together through training camp and into the regular season.

On paper, it's not a sexy line. But they all bring different elements and it's translating to on-ice success.

When the three of them are on the ice together at even strength, the Blackhawks are controlling 59.7 percent of the shot attempts, 68.6 of the scoring chances and 76.9 percent of the high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

When they aren't on the ice at even strength? The Blackhawks are controlling 47.6 percent of the shot attempts, 46.2 percent of the scoring chances and 41.7 percent of the high-danger chances. 

Those are ridiculous numbers for a third line, and they're doing it against top competition, too.

On Saturday against Winnipeg, the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line was tasked with going up against the Jets' Big Three of Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and held them to three shots on goal for and three against in 14:06 of 5-on-5 ice time together. And on Monday against Edmonton, it kept one of the best lines in hockey in check, with Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid recording a minus-6 shot attempt differential in 15:25 of 5-on-5 ice time together.

The biggest mistake Colliton has made this season was separating the trio in the home opener after Kubalik scored a goal and recorded five shots on goal in the first period. He wanted to get the first line going and provide a spark by rewarding Kubalik, but the third line was dominant in the opening 20 minutes — it generated 10 scoring chances at 5-on-5 in only 4:30 together — and moving Kubalik away from Kampf and Saad really affected both lines in a negative way.

But don't expect Colliton to make that same mistake anytime soon. He learned his lesson and that's the last line he's going to touch if he's looking for a shakeup.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. Obviously like Saad is an accomplished, proven performer. He takes the puck to the net. He's a horse there. He's really hard to get the puck off, he transports it from D zone to the offensive zone, he can make those plays.

"I think Kampy is a workhorse. He takes a lot of responsibility defensively and can transport the puck from one end to another. Then you got Kubby, he's got a bomb. I've been very impressed with his play away from the puck. That's been a surprise for me. So now he can play on that line because he does so many responsible things. He wins a lot of races, he's a great forechecker. So, pleased with that line."

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David Kampf agrees to two-year extension with Blackhawks

David Kampf agrees to two-year extension with Blackhawks

One day after GM Stan Bowman expressed confidence that an extension is coming for David Kampf, the Blackhawks made it official on Monday that the two sides have agreed to terms on a two-year deal that carries a cap hit of $1 million.

Kampf was not given a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks, which made him an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team on Monday. But there was never any concern that an extension wouldn't get done. The Blackhawks likely did not tender him an offer because of his arbitration eligibility.

Kampf registered 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 63 games for the Blackhawks last season. He played an important role on the bottom-six and penalty kill last season, and is expected to do so again this season.

With the Kampf extension and Ryan Carpenter signing, the Blackhawks have 10 forwards signed and 20 roster spots filled, giving the team a projected $6.036 million in cap space, according to Cap Friendly.

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Breaking down heated Blackhawks battle for final forward spot


Breaking down heated Blackhawks battle for final forward spot

The Blackhawks made more cuts on Wednesday, assigning forwards Victor Ejdsell, Alexandre Fortin and Matthew Highmore to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League to trim their roster to 28 players. The Opening Day product is getting close.

But there is still a heated battle going on among the forwards, with 14 of them left:

— Artem Anisimov
— Alex DeBrincat
— John Hayden
— Luke Johnson
— Dominik Kahun
— David Kampf
— Patrick Kane
— Marcus Kruger
— Chris Kunitz
— Andreas Martinsen
— Brandon Saad
— Nick Schmaltz
— Dylan Sikura
— Jonathan Toews

Coach Joel Quenneville said after practice he expects to make three more cuts: one forward, one defenseman and one goaltender. With Gustav Forsling and Connor Murphy expected to start the season on injured reserve, along with the uncertainty surrounding Corey Crawford, that would get them under the 23-man limit.

You can probably piece together who the seven defensemen and three goaltenders will be. Up front, not so much. There are three or four guys essentially fighting for one spot.

Let's break down Wednesday's line rushes. The first two lines stayed the same: DeBrincat-Toews-Kahun and Schmaltz-Anisimov-Kane.

The bottom-six had two versions each. The third line rolled Kunitz-Kampf-Saad and Kunitz-Johnson-Saad while the fourth line was Kruger-Johnson-Martinsen and Kampf-Kruger-Martinsen. Hayden and Sikura appeared to have been the odd men out, although Sikura did take a few spins with DeBrincat and Toews during 5-on-5 drills.

That's a little surprising because going into training camp you would have guessed Hayden and Sikura were as close to locks as they could be among the young crop. The former has had a strong camp, especially recently. The latter has faded a bit after a great start, but still adds an offensive element the Blackhawks need in their top-nine.

"There's a bunch of guys fighting for those spots," Sikura said. "It doesn't really matter how the lineup looks like right now, the next couple games are huge for those guys and show what you have."

Two others competing with Hayden and Sikura for the 13th forward position: Johnson and Kampf, both of whom were solid for Rockford during its playoff run last spring and have grabbed the attention of Quenneville this fall.

"I thought Johnson has had an excellent camp," Quenneville said. "I thought he's been really consistent. Kamper has been really good as well. Those two guys are the guys that really added something with the consistency of their game, the pace of their game. Both can play wing, both can play center, both can take draws, both can kill penalties, both look quick. You can talk about every single guy but those two guys to me have had the camp that they've earned the chance to either start here or be here."

Reading between the lines, it appears it's Johnson's and Kampf's job to lose right now. While there are still two more preseason games remaining, Thursday's contest against Ottawa could be a final chance for some to prove they belong before Saturday's final dress rehearsal for the final roster. That means somebody is going to be cut that may not deserve to be, but because of numbers has to be.

"I think these last few particularly, those three guys [Ejdsell, Fortin and Highmore], yesterday the two defensemen [Dahlstrom and Tuulola] that went down, it was one of those like, 'Hey, we all expect you to be part of the team and organization and not just depth,'" Quenneville said. "'We think that you keep progressing here you're going to get a chance to play here regularly as part of it.' Go down there, be respectful of the American [Hockey] League, it's a good hockey league, and put yourself in position to be the guy. Don't feel sorry for yourself because you're not starting here. Don't say that this guy or that guy is ahead of you on the depth chart of the curve. Do something about it by playing your best and trying to get back on top."