Blackhawks

Will Hickman choose the Cubs?

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Will Hickman choose the Cubs?

Blake Hickman is 6-foot-5 and weighs 210 pounds. When he enrolled at Simeon as a freshman, coaches tried to persuade him to play football and basketball. But he wasn't persuaded. He wanted to play baseball and it looks like his persistence is paying off. Just ask the Chicago Cubs.

"I knew coming out of eighth grade that I would go to Simeon," he said. "My brother went there and Simeon has a good baseball program. They tried to get me to play football and basketball but I knew baseball was my future and my favorite sport.

"I started to play baseball when I was 5 years old. The game is exciting to me. I didn't want to be like the others who played basketball. I felt I was good at baseball."

As a senior, Hickman is hearing more whispers in his ear. Some scouts insist his future is as a hard-throwing pitcher rather than a catcher. But Hickman loves to catch, he'd rather be behind the plate than in front of it.

"I watched my older brother Christian catch," said Hickman, whose brother currently is a shortstop at Alcorn State. "We had a game after him and I asked the coach: 'Can I catch?' I fell in love with it. I want to be a catcher. It's my favorite position.

"I know they want to see me on the mound. I have been timed at 93-94 miles per hour. I know they are looking for someone like that. If it doesn't work out, I'll play anywhere. I can't argue with them. I can't worry about what the scouts say. I just go out and play.

"But I want to be a catcher. I'm in every play. I can throw people out. I can control the pitching staff. When I'm on the mound, I feel OK. I just try to get a win for my team. In the end, my goal is to go to college and play pro ball."

Earlier this season, however, Hickman had reason to wonder if he'd ever play again. On April 5, in a spring game at Harrisburg, Illinois, he attempted to block a pitch in the dirt. The ball bounced up and struck him in the throat.

"The pain was indescribable," he recalled. "I wondered if I would play again this year or if I would ever talk again. I couldn't talk for three days."

Hickman was flown to a hospital in Evansville, Indiana, where he underwent an emergency tracheotomy. He missed 12 games. He had a run-scoring double in Simeon's 2-1 victory over Lane Tech for the Public League championship and contributed two doubles and a grand slam homer in a 19-0 victory over Phillips in the regional opener.

Now Hickman has another decision to make. He committed to Iowa in April of his junior year. "I felt that was the best school for me. The coaches really showed that they wanted me. They came at me the most," said Hickman, who chose Iowa over Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

But he was selected in the 20th round of the major league draft on June 5 by the Cubs. He was rated as the 18th best high school catcher in the nation according to one national survey. What will he do?

"He is one of the best players ever to come out of Simeon," said coach Leroy Franklin, who has had 25 players selected in the major league draft and sent more than 60 to college.

"Some scouts say he didn't hit like they wanted him to hit. I don't see anything wrong with his (catching) mechanics. I think he can catch at the next level.

"But he has a big frame and he can throw 95 mph so he is more valuable as a pitcher. There aren't many good catchers in the major leagues but the first thing the scouts want is a pitcher. He'll throw even faster in college. He just wants to play pro ball."

Sean Duncan of Chicago-based Prep Baseball Report thinks Hickman's future is on the mound.

"I really don't think he can catch," Duncan said. "On the mound, he is pretty interesting. He is extremely raw but the arm works. He's the wild card in the draft. Not a lot of people have seen him on the mound. The kid is 90-93 mph on the mound without any pitching background."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

Should Kirby Dach see more ice time? What should the Blackhawks do with Erik Gustafsson? Has Robin Lehner separated himself in the goalie tandem?

Patrick Sharp and Charlie Roumeliotis join Pat Boyle to discuss that and much more on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. Plus, you'll hear Robin Lehner's postgame comments after the loss to the Golden Knights and why he thinks the Blackhawks are "really close" to putting it all together.

1:08 - Blackhawks come up with best defensive effort of the season

2:52 - Changes made to the power play units

4:14 - Evaluating Erik Gustafsson's play so far

6:04 - Who fills in after the Connor Murphy injury

7:49 - Patrick Sharp remembers Patrick Kane rookie season

9:08 - What does the future hold for Kirby Dach?

12:04 - Struggles of the Blackhawks' top-six

14:44 - Another strong performance by Robin Lehner

16:33 - Lehner's strong post-game comments after Vegas loss

20:07 - How to handle the goalie-split going forward

23:25 - Biggest thing the Blackhawks need to improve upon

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

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AP

Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

The Blackhawks are expected to be without defenseman Connor Murphy for "a couple weeks" after he left in the second period of Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights because of a groin injury, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after the game.

It's the same injury that sidelined Murphy for the season opener in Prague, which is unfortunate given his promotion to the top pairing with Duncan Keith has provided some stability on all three pairings. 

"Obviously that's a blow for us," Colliton said. "It's an opportunity for other guys. We think we need to continue to build depth. That's what we're going to need. We can't just play with six D or seven D all year. You're going to need more than that. That'll be an opportunity for other guys to grow."

Slater Koekkoek is serving as the seventh defenseman right now and he's the likely candidate to slide into Murphy's spot in the lineup. But the Blackhawks might be inclined to make a call-up from Rockford as insurance.

Dennis Gilbert started the season with the Blackhawks because Murphy and Calvin de Haan were not cleared to play overseas, so he's a potential candidate to be brought back up.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.