Last week was a busy one for the Blackhawks organization as they made a few trades, signed some players, and held their annual development camp for prospects. Here's a quick recap of all the activity since the draft, starting with the first media appearances of the new acquired players via trade.
Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall were first up, with meeting with the media last Friday (July 1) to discuss their thoughts on joining the Blackhawks.
Foligno could have still hit the open market after his trade since he was a pending unrestricted free agent, but he said that he was interested in the type of leadership role he would have with a rebuilding team like the Blackhawks. Of course, the $4 million salary he wouldn't have gotten anywhere else didn't hurt, either.
The draw of playing on a team with a young player like Connor Bedard didn't hurt, either – at least from his kids' perspective:
Foligno brought up an interesting point about how mercurial the NHL could be in terms of who is on the top now and how they related to those who are currently on the bottom:
On the same video call, Hall went into his more complicated thoughts about the trade, but he ultimately said he sees the Blackhawks as an opportunity to prove he's still a capable top-quality player. Hall did mention he found some excitement in the idea of being a part of the Blackhawks' rebuilding process too.
As for playing with Bedard, Hall leaned into the idea of being a mentor as well:
Hall also discussed how Corey Perry helped ease the blow of being traded, due to how respected the latter is in the league:
Speaking of Perry, he met with the media in Chicago on Friday to discuss his own trade and signing. The basic summary of his comments were that he's aware that he isn't well liked by the fanbase, but that's he's still excited to be joining the organization. He mentioned viewing this as an opportunity to guide Bedard and, yes, protect him if necessary.
Just to note, despite all the talk about these incoming veterans taking on leadership roles, coach Luke Richardson wasn't sure the Blackhawks will name a captain this upcoming season. It's not uncommon for teams to be without captains during transition seasons – there were eight teams without a captain just last season – so it wouldn't be particularly surprising if the Blackhawks went this route.
Richardson also said he did have some input into the Blackhawks acquiring Foligno and Perry (mentioned in the video below at the 1:24 mark), emphasizing how he'd coached both in the past and admired how they worked with young players previously. Specifically to Perry, Richardson said he had a "big footprint" in helping Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and others young stars in Montreal progress as players. The Blackhawks wanted to start fresh and go in a new direction, but they still wanted to surround their incoming young players with experience.
New jersey numbers were revealed for those players on Wednesday. Blackhawks fans will be happy to know that Perry will not be wearing No. 10 – it would have been a sacrilege to some, let's be honest.
Additionally, Jason Dickinson switched to 16 for this season:
GM Kyle Davidson also spoke with the media on Wednesday about roster construction, specifically that there likely aren't any other offseason moves coming beyond the possibly of picking up another defenseman. That may feel counterproductive, considering the focus should be on the handful of young defenders vying for roster spots, but the organization may feel more comfortable with at least one more veteran player in case of injuries.
The only real outstanding item left on the forward side of things is forward Philipp Kurashev's signing. The restricted free agent was tendered a qualifying offer but Davidson said he expected that Kurashev will file for arbitration when he spoke to the media on Wednesday – which Kurashev did do. Davidson expects to get a deal done with the player before arbitration happens, so it was more of a formality on the player's side to keep the option open if needed.
The other big event that happened this past week was the Blackhawks development camp with their prospects, which was conducted entirely off-ice. The players who participated in development camp are listed below:
The Blackhawks have mentioned several times in the past that they made the decision to be off the ice completely to not overwork their prospects when it comes specifically to skating:
Moving off-ice also allowed the Blackhawks to focus more on some new activities, such as different techniques to incorporate into their training programs.
One training technique class was all about boxing, for example:
The prospects also had nutritional cooking classes that are pretty typical of development camps, though they also had a cooking competition at the Chopping Block:
Another class the Blackhawks prospects participated in was about breathing techniques taught by former Blackhawks player Johnny Oduya, who has been teaching this way with his company Hale in Stockholm since 2019.
The prospects also heard from Brock McGillis – a former professional goaltender and LGBTQ+ advocate – on topics related to the mental health of players and creating an environment where everyone is comfortable on and off the ice.
The prospects also had an "open mic" night, which is kind of hilarious by itself, considering how much hockey players can sound like robots when publicly speaking.
The activities did seem to have a positive impact on the players. Goalie prospect Drew Commesso said they already felt like a "normal" team:
Obviously, Connor Bedard was the prospect receiving the most attention at camp. He led off by mentioning that Patrick Kane gave him a congratulatory call after the draft. Just to note, Bedard met and played with Kane at the annual BioSteel Camp in Toronto ahead of training camp for the 2022-23 season.
Bedard fielded a lot of questions regarding the pressure of coming to a big market city like Chicago, and his responses showed he's a down to earth, humble kid with a good head on his shoulders:
Several other prospects commented on both Bedard's innate leadership quality and his humility when asked about the No. 1 pick.
Bedard seems to have enjoyed the team building and city exploration parts of the camp a lot:
But Bedard said his favorite individual activity was the clinic with the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, where they played floor hockey:
Although Bedard has used the phrase "if I make the team" several times, Richardson chimed in to say there's no doubt from his standpoint that the young star is ready for the NHL:
Fellow 2023 first-round pick, Oliver Moore, said he learned a lot at development camp, emphasizing the activities that focused on being a professional off the ice. His goal for his upcoming freshman season at the University of Minnesota is to win the NCAA Championship.
Moore won't be alone in that goal, either. Defenseman Sam Rinzel, a 2022-first round pick, is also an incoming freshman for Minnesota, and those two will be rooming together:
L_B_R note: Moore is apparently a bit of a Swifty, indicating he is both a top prospect and has good taste in music.
Forward prospect Martin Misiak (2023, second round) didn't appear in front of the media at camp, but he made news in another way by becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 CHL Import Draft, heading to the Erie Otters.
This is the second year in a row for Misiak to be selected high in the import draft: he was selected second overall by Saginaw Spirit last year but did not make the transition, playing in the USHL instead.
Forward Marcel Marcel, a 2023 fifth-rounder, seems to already be a favorite among the media. The large human spoke about his name and the unexpected moment of when he was drafted. Of note, Marcel has been a teammate with 2022 Blackhawks draftee Samuel Savoie on the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques.
Beyond the 2023 draft class, the camp had several other top prospects attending.
One such prospect is 2022 first-round pick and top defensive prospect Kevin Korchinski, and he is perhaps the most interesting at the moment simply because it's unknown where he'll be playing next season. Due to the CHL-NHL agreement, he is ineligible to play in the AHL, so it's either the NHL or WHL for him.
If you ask Korchinski, he believes he's ready to make the transition to the NHL:
Rockford IceHogs coach Anders Sorenson noted that Korchinski looks more mature this development camp, which falls in line with the prospect having put on close to 10 pounds since last season.
Korchinski spoke about his goal of putting on weight:
‘‘I’ve definitely been in the gym, been putting on a bit of weight, but not too much where I feel slow. Whether it’s nutrition or just working out . . . it’s a big goal for me to put on a bit of weight this summer so that, in training camp, I feel stronger and can battle with men.’’
Ben Pope of the Sun-Times made a great point in a recent article about how it's not a failure if Korchinski doesn't make the team, comparing him to Shea Theodore – Korchinski's role model – who spent two seasons in the WHL post-draft and then more time in the AHL before he transitioned to the NHL full-time. Theodore just won the Stanley Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights as a the highest point-producer on Vegas form the blue line while playing the second most minutes.
Richardson chimed in as well, noting that Korchinski already can skate at an NHL level, so Korchinski just needs to show up at the main training camp to prove the rest of his game is ready as well.
Prior to the 2023 NHL Draft, Frank Nazar (2022, first round) was arguably the top forward prospect for the Blackhawks, but his freshman season at Michigan was derailed before it started due to an injury that needed surgery last summer. He ended playing some games at the end of the season, but he was still in more of a recovery mode then. Nazar told the media he's feeling good now and is ready to take on a bigger role with Wolverines next season, and how dealing with the adversity of an injury helped him grow mentally as a player.
Oh, and Nazar discussed his friendship and rivalry with the aforementioned Moore, as they'll both compete in the Big Ten.
For Nazar's full comments to the media, check out the video below:
Speaking of Big Ten opponents, the other Golden Gopher Nazar will face off against throughout next season is Rinzel, who gave the media some insight into his transition to college hockey and his friendship with Moore.
More comments from Rinzel can be found here:
Paul Ludwinski and Ryan Greene, a pair of 2022 second-round picks, spoke to the media together.
- Ludwinski touched on recovery from an ankle injury (from 0:00 to 1:27 in the video below). He hasn't skated in three months, so he's been focused on upper-body strength and other off-ice skills, but he was cleared by the Blackhawks doctors to start skating this week.
- Greene talked about his seemingly easy transition from the USHL to college hockey (1:38 to 2:02) and that he enjoyed boxing the most at the development camp (2:40 to 3:07).
- Both discussed how they see the Blackhawks having drafted for both speed and character recently (3:22).
Samuel Savoie, a 2023 third-round pick who got a lot of attention at last year's on-ice development camp due to his physicality and high motor, spoke about how his expanded role with his QMJHL team last season impacted his playing style:
More comments from Savorie can be found here:
Forward Gavin Hayes, another 2022 third-rounder, had one of the biggest jumps in production after being drafted, going from 0.75 to 1.23 points-per-game season over season with the Flint Firebirds in the OHL. He spoke with the media about his confidence growth as his on-ice performance soared:
More comments from Hayes can be found here:
The Blackhawks have limited options in terms of defensemen who naturally play on the right, so Nolan Allan (2021, first-round) might slide to that side in the interim as he has some experience.
Another draftee from 2022, second-rounder Colton Dach, talked about his journey last season which was riddled with some injuries, including a shoulder injury that took him out for two months, and how that made him rethink aspects of his game to play smarter and safer.
Neither Lukas Reichel (2020, first-round) nor Cole Guttman (2022, NCAA free-agent signing) were at the development camp, but Sorsenson did touch on both briefly:
Last but not least, for anyone interested in some behind the scenes action at the NHL Lottery, Draft and the development camp, check out the latest Every Shift episode. Few highlights for me:
- Davidson succinctly recapping the Blackhawks lottery win by calling it "fucking crazy" while laughing.
- The process of them obviously trying hard to trade up for Moore only for him to drop to them at No. 19.
- Seth Jones texting Moore telling him to "stay off Broadway tonight."
- Bedard being awkward with the Chicago Cubs mascot, Clark.
- One additional note from Dave: keep Bedard as far away from Jay Cutler as possible