by Scott King
During the Blackhawks’ third victory over the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild in a month, the team announced a signing that could help the already well-oiled machine run even smoother.
The Hawks signed forward John Hayden to a two-year deal that runs through 2017-2018. The 74th overall pick of the 2013 NHL draft recently completed his senior season at Yale as the team’s captain. During his final season, he set highs with 21 goals and 13 assists.
Following the team’s 4-2 victory over the Wild on Sunday, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said Hayden will get a chance to play with the Hawks.
“We expect him to get a game or two in on this trip,” Quenneville said Monday before the Hawks left for Montreal. The team will also play in Ottawa Thursday night and Toronto Saturday.
“I think he gives us a different element to our team up front – some abrasiveness, a little sandpaper up and down type of guy, to the net.
“Direct player and hard working kid. I like his approach here, talking to him today and where he’s at. We’re happy to get him signed and in the program as well.”
The 6’3 210 lb forward would have become an unrestricted free agent had the Hawks not signed him by mid-August.
“There was never a doubt since I was drafted that this is where I would sign,” the 22-year old winger said. “It’s such a first class organization and there’s a winning culture here, so I’m excited to learn from the staff and obviously the leadership here.
“It’s my job to just come here and work hard, and I’ll help however I can.”
Hayden expects that some familiar faces on the team will help him in ease into the NHL.
“I know Hartsy (Ryan Hartman) going back to Ann Arbor when we were both at the development program, and I know Schmaltzy (Nick Schmaltz) and Riemer (Trevor van Riemsdyk) and a few other guys. Again, everyone has been very supportive.
“Talked to a few of the guys I know, and everyone else has done a great job of introducing themselves and everyone has been tremendously nice. I’m excited to be here.”
Hayden sees his game and the ways he can contribute to the Hawks similar to how Coach Q does.
“I like to play a pretty simple two-way game, use my size in the dirty areas of the ice, chip in offensively. I like to be a physical presence.”
“We played at World Juniors together one year, so I got to know him pretty well and obviously prospect camps,” said Schmaltz. “He’s a great kid, works really hard, great guy, goes to the net, plays with some grit to his game and finishes a lot of checks. He’s a big, powerful forward.”
Schmaltz doesn’t think Hayden will have difficulty adjusting to the speed and skill of the NHL.
“Initially right away, he’s obviously ready, he’s a big body, big kid, good skater, it’ll be fun to see him. Hopefully he does well here.”
Hawks backup goaltender Scott Darling noticed some qualities in Hayden that could also benefit the team.
“He’s obviously a tremendous player, you look at what he did at Yale, it’s a great conference, a great college hockey program, to be the captain of a team like that says something about him as a person, and the points speak for themselves.”
Quenneville said Hayden could be in the Hawks’ lineup Thursday in Ottawa.
Scott Darling is rejoining the team sooner than expected. The goaltender will be traveling with the Hawks to back up Corey Crawford in Montreal tomorrow. Darling has been out of the lineup since suffering an upper-body injury at the team’s March 3rd practice.
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