Blackhawks development camp takeaways

Blackhawks prospects participate in third day of the team's annual development camp on July 17, 2019 at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago, IL. - Scott King

by Scott King

The Chicago Blackhawks held their annual development camp at Fifth Third Arena following a big draft and and in the midst of a busy offseason.

The Blackhawks selected 18-year-old, 6’4 center Kirby Dach with the number three pick last month. According to Blackhawks GM and VP Stan Bowman, Dach has been one of the standouts already in camp.

“Well it’s hard not to notice his skill level,” Bowman said. “He’s a big guy but he’s got really soft hands, he’s got that long reach and he’s got a quick stick. He’s pretty tricky with the puck, he’s got the ability to hold it out so that guys can’t poke it away and if they try to get it he can pull it through and he’s got quick hands.

“And I think that’s what you notice. He skates well for a big guy. These are all things that we liked about him when we drafted him but when you get him here and put him up against guys that are a couple years older, he’s able to do some special things with the puck so he’s got all the excitement to be on the ice, he’s a competitive kid, he’s focused, but he’s enjoying himself and he’s got a combination of attributes that we wish everybody had.”

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton has been observing the camp as well this week. He also noticed Dach and said he likes that the Hawks added more skill and edge with their offseason moves.

Colliton wanted to set the record straight on the Henri Jokiharju for Alex Nylander trade.

“I think there’s this idea that I’m down on Henri,” Colliton said. “Not at all. I mean he played half a season as a teenager in the NHL. Probably in a perfect world we wouldn’t have had to put him in that position, where he could have been in Rockford and able to really be playing the role that hopefully he can play down the road as being a top-pair D.

“Trying to get to that level. But the roster that we had at the beginning of the year, we had a couple injuries and he was kind of forced into that spot and I think he did well. And there’s no reason why he can’t be an excellent player, but when you look at our group … we have some really good defensemen coming up.

“They’re a little bit smaller, a little more tilted toward the offensive side of the game. We had an opportunity to add a guy like Nylander and felt like that was the route to go. I’m excited to get a chance to work with Alex. Seems like a great kid. He’s played three years pro already and he’s just barely in his 20s.

“Lot of offensive ability and upside. He’s got a great shot. Comes obviously from a very good hockey pedigree and it’s up to us to try and help him take the next step as a player. Hopefully [he can] contribute with us and help us win games.”

Prospect watch

In addition to Dach, Bowman said he’s noticed Nylander, Ian Mitchell and Adam Boqvist the most.

Mitchell, a defenseman, will return to the University of Denver to captain the hockey team in his third year. Boqvist, who was Chicago’s eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft, had a strong year playing in the OHL last season with the London Knights and is likely to turn pro following training camp, playing either with the Hawks or their AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs.

Bowman has also been impressed by the skating ability of 6’6 defenseman Alex Vlasic who the Hawks picked at No. 43 in the 2019 draft.

“Yeah he’s pretty smooth. I think that’s always the challenge with guys that big,” Bowman said. “He covers a lot of ground with his reach but his skating, he’s kept up quite well being one of the youngest guys here.

“He’s tough to play against, he defends really well and I think that’s a strength of this guy. So I think it’s just going to be a progression for him.

“He seems to have a pretty good understanding of his path and he’s not trying to make the NHL, he understands he’s got some growth to do and I think those are the players that end up figuring it out as he’s got a good idea of what it’s going to take to become an NHL player.”

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