Dylan Sikura

Blackhawks forward Dylan Sikura making the most of Phase 3 training camp

Blackhawks forward Dylan Sikura making the most of Phase 3 training camp

Blackhawks forward Dylan Sikura won't go away, and that's a good thing for the team.

Sikura, selected by the Hawks in the sixth round (No. 178 overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, has spent parts of the last three seasons in a Hawks sweater. He played in five games with Chicago during the 2017-18 season, 33 in 2018-19 and nine this year before the NHL pause.

When Sikura wasn't with the Hawks the past two seasons, he was with the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate. 

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The Aurora, Ontario native has totalled 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in his 47 games with the Hawks, and has been using this summer's unique set of circumstances to make the most of another opportunity with Chicago.

Dylan has been getting more and more noticeable in the Hawks' Phase 3 training camp, which will lead up to their exhibition game against the Blues and play-in series against the Oilers, both in Edmonton. He's looked quick and he's been regularly generating offense, including a hat trick in Tuesday's scrimmage and a shootout goal on Thursday.

"It’s obviously been a tough road," Sikura said of his two-way travel with the Blackhawks and IceHogs on a Zoom video conference call with Hawks media Thursday after practice. "I know we’ve had conversations about this leading up, trying to kind of find a spot you fit in or what kind of player you’re going to be at this level. 

"But I think sometimes it takes time. For me, it’s always been a time game and kind of waiting out and trusting the process there. Hopefully I can take a step here, maybe get into a game or two depending on what happens and see what happens there. But you know just kind of keep taking a step and hopefully one day breaking that barrier and just becoming a regular."

The fact that the winger has been noticeable in camp speaks volumes as he's often not been participating with the main group of forwards in camp.

"So with Dylan, we've tried to keep the forward group to 12, just to try to get as many reps as we could for that group of 12 forwards. So Dylan, sometimes we've had a 13th and sometimes we haven't, and so it can be frustrating to be outside of that top group when you're trying to prove you belong in there," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said Thursday. "But I think he's done a really, really good job. Right from Day 1 he's had a lot of energy and you can see he's hungry to play. 

"Got the chance to fill in for Tazer a little bit in the scrimmage, thought [on] the power play he moved it really well when he was there. And then in the scrimmage he had some success. 

"That's important for him to feel that confidence again that he's an NHL player and he can help us win. I believe that that's the truth, he has a part to play here and a lot of times in the playoffs those guys who get in late or as depth players, they end up being the difference. So we want him to feel good about his game and be excited about his chance to contribute and I think that he will."

The Hawks will hold their final training camp practice in Chicago on Saturday before traveling to Edmonton on Sunday and practicing there. Their exhibition game against St. Louis is on July 29 and the best-of-five qualifying round series against the Oilers, with the winner advancing to Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, begins Aug. 1.

Dylan Sikura breathes sigh of relief, finally scores first career NHL goal with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Dylan Sikura breathes sigh of relief, finally scores first career NHL goal with Blackhawks

Dylan Sikura has been an offensive player his entire hockey career. In juniors, in college and in the American Hockey League he was relied upon to score goals and put up points and had no problem doing it at those first three levels.

It's the NHL where it hasn't translated as easily.

After a 43-game drought to open his NHL career, Sikura finally scored his first goal and celebrated by leaping into the arms of Erik Gustafsson. It was a huge relief for Sikura, who did his best to stay patient throughout the process, but you knew it was eating at him internally.

"I waited a long time for that," Sikura said following the Blackhawks' 4-2 comeback win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Sunday. "As much as I tried to not let it affect me, obviously at the end of the day it's going to and it's going hurt your confidence a little. Sometimes when you're not scoring it kind of feels like you're not doing much out there even if maybe you are. It's nice to get that weight off my back and hopefully get a couple more here."

Sikura became the fifth player on the Blackhawks this season to score his first career NHL goal, joining Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Dennis Gilbert and Dominik Kubalik. It took only two games for Boqvist, Dach and Kubalik to get on the board, all of whom made it seem easier than it really is.

Sikura had to wait nearly two years for his turn, but he no longer has to wonder when it's going to come. He capitalized beautifully on Gustafsson's rebound by burying the puck into a wide-open net to even the score at 2-2 in the middle frame. It was the second goal in 45 seconds for the Blackhawks, who scored four unanswered to finish the game.

"I was telling the guys," Sikura said, "I think that's something I pictured, that exact scenario maybe a thousand times before bed."

Perhaps the best part about Sikura breaking through is how much his teammates wanted it for him. Before every game, somebody would make a comment to Sikura about how this is going to be the night. On Sunday, it was Jonathan Toews.

"It was awesome," Dylan Strome said. "I hope there's a bench reaction. We were going crazy for the bench for him, obviously. It sucks; it took me 12 games and I was thinking about it every single night and I'm sure he was too. You know he's thinking about it — the guy can score goals, makes plays, he's been doing it all since he's been here. Tazer said today that he 'feels it today, Sikky,' and he gets that all the time, but I think this one stuck with him and he put it right home."

"Tazer had a good feeling for me tonight," Sikura said. "So cheers to him."

On second thought, maybe sharing that special moment with your teammates isn’t Sikura’s favorite part about scoring his first NHL goal.

Two reporters approached Sikura on separate occasions after morning skate on Sunday to talk about whether his scoring slump is taking a toll on him. Those questions can finally be put to rest.

"I don't have to listen to you guys ask me about it anymore," a smiling Sikura said. "That's nice."

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Dylan Sikura out to prove he can be 'everyday kind of guy' with Blackhawks

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USA Today

Dylan Sikura out to prove he can be 'everyday kind of guy' with Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled forward Dylan Sikura from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the team announced Sunday morning. In a corresponding move for financial reasons, Anton Wedin was reassigned to Rockford after four games with the Blackhawks.

Sikura leads the IceHogs in goals (nine), points (16) and shots on goal (99) in 22 games this season. He was on a three-game point streak (one goal, two assists) prior to the call-up. 

Back in Chicago for the third year — first this season — Sikura is out to prove he can stay for good.

"I think this time around just prove that I can play, I can stay, be an everyday kind of guy up here," Sikura said. "There's times last year towards the end of the year where I was proving myself a little bit and I'm excited to get a fresh start and another chance here."

The biggest challenge for Sikura in the NHL has always been making the most of the minutes he gets at even strength. In college, he played in all situations. In Rockford, he was a top-line player and a key piece to the first power-play unit.

But it's difficult for him to get those same opportunities in Chicago on a roster with Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Dylan Strome and Jonathan Toews carrying the offensive load.

Sikura has 11 assists in 38 games across two seasons with the Blackhawks, but he's still searching for his first career NHL goal, which is something that weighed on his mind going into the summer. He takes a lot of pride in contributing on the scoresheet, and he's hoping the goals come naturally for him this time around.

"Absolutely," a smiling Sikura said. "I think that's something that's important for me. Down there, I get opportunities to score goals and obviously that's something I'd like to do at this level so hopefully we can put this to rest soon."

Sunday's game against the Arizona Coyotes will be Sikura's third in as many days. He played in Grand Rapids on Friday, Rockford on Saturday, got the call-up after the game and drove to Chicago around midnight.

It's unclear where he'll slot into the lineup, but the Blackhawks are pleased with his body of work and felt it was time to give Sikura a shot with the big club.

"I think he showed that he can contribute with us with his pace of play," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I thought his line, when I looked back at him, Toews and Saad [last season], they had a really good stretch where they were driving possession and giving us offensive zone time and that line came through with some production too. He didn't necessarily score, but he was a part of that.

"Just energy and work ethic, and he has some skill too. But it's not unlike a lot of young players — just finding a way to do it every single shift every single night. We're looking for that throughout our lineup, so if he can bring it that'll help him."

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