Chicago Blackhawks development camp: Day four takeaways

  

As development camp goes over the hill of the week and heads closer to the Friday full-team scrimmage, Blackhawks prospects have started to separate themselves from the pack. On day four of camp, players that are showing top-level talent and potential have started to give the Blackhawks an idea of how good they can be and how quickly they might find themselves in the NHL lineup.

Blackhawks development camp: Day four takeaways

The highlights of camp have been as expected. Kirby Dach has begun to showcase exactly why the Blackhawks felt that he was the best option with the third overall pick in this June’s NHL Entry Draft. His size and skill makes him one of the more prolific in camp with the puck on his stick. What has emerged in camp so far for Dach is his competitiveness and his physical game. He is not overly heavy in his defensive play, but he uses his frame and body weight to muscle players in puck battles. He is making a strong case for Chicago to reconsider possibly sending him back to the WHL.

Along with Dach, fellow 2019 draft pick Alex Vlasic has shown that he is potentially going to make a couple teams upset they did not grab him late in the first round. Vlasic’s size and defenisve skill in his own end are his promising features, while his foot speed and skating have been and seem to always be the question around him. So far in this camp, there has been little to suggest that his agility for being 6-foot-6 should be an issue at this period of time. His frame allows him to play with confidence at this level and should increase as his time in the NCAA progresses at Boston University.

Alexander Nylander continues to look out of place at camp. He is too good to be here. Having played three professional seasons already in the NHL and AHL for the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans, Nylander is going to press for NHL ice time with the Blackhawks. His pace on offense and quick release make him a possibility to be a third-line scoring option right off the bat for Chicago.

Adam Boqvist looks the part of an NHL player. His confidence has increased in his game from last year to this year at this point and it shows on the ice. He is no longer hesitant in his own zone and has started to challenge more plays defensively. Adding to the continued growth of his offensive skill set, once Boqvist finds his legs at the professional level, there should be no doubt that he will be able to step into the Blackhawks lineup sooner rather than later.

As for Nicolas Beaudin, he began focusing more on his defensive game coming into this last season and the work he put in paid off in Drummondville. While his production on the scoresheet went down, his play defensively began to take a corner and he was used more in all situations in for the Voltigeurs. Now making the jump to the professional level, once Beaudin becomes comfortable with the pace and physicality of the game at the professional level, much like Boqvist, he could see himself in the Blackhawks’ defensive group within his entry-level deal.

One of the more under-the-radar forwards at camp this week has been Philipp Kurashev. Coming out of Quebec in the QMJHL this past season, Kurashev has a great first step to his game and plays with a pace and shiftiness that will drive defenders crazy. Pair that with a high-level release on his shot and he could find himself in a top-line role for the IceHogs this season, be it at wing or at center. His showing at the World Junior Championships and World Championships with Switzerland put him on the map and his play continues to impress through development camp.

Daily one-on-one: MacKenzie Entwistle

On Wednesday, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman had a ton of praise to heap onto prospects like Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach and Ian Mitchell this week in camp, just to name a few. But, another player he mentioned was forward MacKenzie Entwistle. Bowman parised the two-time OHL champion for being the kind of player who embraces his role and knows his path to the NHL at such a young age. At just 20 years old, having his birthday on the Sunday before development camp, Entwistle already has the front office on notice. His play this season in his first year as a professional will give the organization a chance to better see where he fits into their NHL plans.

On back-to-back long seasons in the OHL:

“It’s obviously been a short summer again, but as a player, you want to have those kinds of seasons. Playing as long as you can and, for me, winning two championships in two years is pretty special and something a lot of guys do not get to do. The summer has been nice; I’ve had a little bit of time to rest, but I’m happy to be here now.”

Plans for his day with the J. Ross Robertson Cup (OHL Championship):

“I’m going to wait until I get back to Toronto and then most likely going to bring it up to my family’s cottage and spend time with family, take a couple pictures. Nothing too crazy planned.”

On difference between last year’s development camp after being traded, to this summer’s camp:

“Getting traded as a young player, I didn’t really know what to expect. First thing that went through my mind was, ‘What did I do? What did I do wrong?’ But, Stan welcomed me here with open arms and I remember the first call I had with him, he told me ‘You did nothing wrong. We just really liked you as a young player and that’s why we traded for you.’ As a young player, hearing that from the GM was pretty special. It’s definitely easier coming back to the second camp. Last year, I came in with an open mind and tried to learn as much as I could, meeting new players and coaches. It was kind of tough, but now I know a lot of the players and it makes it easier and is a weight off your shoulders.”

On transition from junior hockey to the professional level:

“I think I’m ready. As a player, I just want to keep taking those strides in developing as a player and as a person. Playing in juniors and at the World Junior level helped me a lot, as did going on a run last year with Guelph. I got to play with guys like Nick Suzuki and Isaac Ratcliffe and I learned a lot from them and from the coaching staff and I thought I grew a ton. I’ve put on some weight and I feel good out there and feel ready for the pro level.”

On Bowman’s praise of him being aware of his role and path to the NHL:

“As a player, I don’t see myself necessarily starting as a top-six guy or getting relied on for major points. With the World Junior team I had the same mentality and I got kind of put in that same role and I enjoyed it; I thrived in it. Obviously as an older guy in juniors, my role is a little bit different, having the experience a bit more. But for me, if I’m going to succeed at the next level, I’m going to be a third or fourth line guy who kills penalties and is reliable in the defensive zone. I don’t want to just say that; obviously, I want to keep growing my game and become a better offensive player and put up numbers. I want to keep growing as a player and as a person.”

On working to become a more well-rounded player:

“Going pro, everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. When you get to this level, you see guys in the NHL who play their role and do it the best to their ability and that’s why they get the money they do. You have face off guys and guys who kill penalties at big moments and power play guys who are the best at their craft. So, everybody has something, a little bit different role on the team. For me, that’s something that I’m trying to perfect and keep getting better at as I get older and keep learning more.”

Tomorrow will conclude the Chicago Blackhawks’ development camp week. Friday’s full-team scrimmage will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Fifth Third Bank Ice Arena, pitting Team A versus Team B.

More tomorrow on The-Rink!

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