Alex Vlasic not planning to rush his development

  

He grew up less than 20 miles north of the United Center in Wilmette, Illinois. But, for Alex Vlasic, he was not the die-hard Blackhawks fan many who grew up in his same generation were. His cousin, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, was a key player for the San Jose Sharks at the time, so Alex’s allegiances were not with Chicago. Those allegiances changed in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft when Alex was selected 43rd overall by the Blackhawks. While the mold of the “hometown kid who grew up a Blackhawks fan and is now playing for the team he loved” narrative does not fit Vlasic, he can eventually win over the hearts and minds of the Blackhawks’ community with his skills, stature and mentality on and off the ice. His first two days of development camp have displayed all of those tools, but for Vlasic and the Blackhawks, his development will not be rushed.

Alex Vlasic taking his time with development

Through the first two days of the Blackhawks’ development camp, Vlasic has looked as advertised when he was selected in the second round. Coming into camp at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he skates well for a player of his age and size. Vlasic is never going to ‘wow’ you with lightning-fast feet, but he understands the progression of his agility will be one of the keys to his success through the NCAA and into the NHL.

“It’s going to be tougher for me to move my feet faster, or as fast as the smaller players,” Vlasic said. “But, I think I do a good job of it. I work on it a lot, so if I continue to progress how it has been going, I should be fine.”

For Vlasic, mobility is the foremost key to his game. He has the physical tools already at 18 years old. Playing a shutdown style on the blueline for the U.S. National Team Development Program the last two seasons has given him the ability to see how his game stacks up against faster, more skilled players.

Over the last two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Vlasic has had to practice against forwards like Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Oliver Wahlstrom, Joel Farabee and fellow Blackhawks prospect Jake Wise. He has also competed against and has been paired with defenders like Cam York, K’Andre Miller, Bode Wilde, Ty Emberson and Mattias Samuelsson. Eleven of those players have been selected within the top 50 draft picks of the last two NHL draft classes. And those are just his teammates.

“Our team last year had a ton of success,” Vlasic said. “We had eight first round picks, or something like that, so a ton of those guys are just as good or better than some of the guys I’ll ever play against. So, to be able to experience that, it’s a good preparation for what it might be like for me in the future.”

Vlasic also raved about getting to play against fellow 2019 NHL draft pick Kirby Dach so far in the first two days of camp, saying that one does not get the chance every day to play against a player of that caliber. With the first two picks of the 2019 draft compared to the first two picks of the 2018 draft by the Blackhawks on a physical level, Dach and Vlasic are near monsters compared to Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. General Manager Stan Bowman made a shift this summer to develop players that not only had speed and skill, but also size.

Vlasic’s defensive responsibility to his game and his large frame make him a blueliner that most teams would envy. If his development over the next few seasons goes according to his and the Blackhawks’ hopes and plans, Vlasic might end up peaking as a Colton Parayko, Brandon Carlo or Tyler Myers type of player who can eat heavy minutes, play physically and be an effective penalty killer.

As for the immediate future, Vlasic has no plans to rush into the NHL.

“I’ve been at Boston (University) for about two weeks already doing summer classes, so I’ll definitely go there for two years or so,” Vlasic said. “Maybe two or three years and then figure out what I’m going to do from there.”

If there’s anything that Vlasic can take forward from camp about the NCAA experience and specifically about Boston University, he has some help from former and fellow Terriers Chad Krys and Jake Wise, respectively, who are both in camp this week with Vlasic.

“I’ve been friends with Wisey for one or two years now,” Vlasic said. “He played with the U.S. Development Program with me. I’ve been chatting it up with Chad Krys as well, an ex-BU player here in camp, so it’s been pretty comfortable for me.”

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