Hockey is upon us.
The Chicago Blackhawks will open training camp on Friday and their first game in Columbus is next Tuesday. And the home opener versus John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs is just a few weeks away.
My training camp preview will be out Friday morning but before we dive into that, let’s recap the last few days in Blackhawks hockey.
At the annual prospect camp in Travers City, Michigan, the Blackhawks finished 2-2 with wins coming against Carolina and St. Louis and falling to Columbus and Minnesota. Henri Jokikaru, Dylan Sikura, Victor Ejdsell, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Blake Hillman highlighted the Blackhawks roster.
Sikura arguably had the best performance over the 5-day tournament. The former Northeastern star had a goal in the opener last Friday and the game-winning goal Monday night in overtime.
Sikra will definitely make the team out of camp this season and he may even earn a top line role. Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, and Sikura could be a very effective top line. That is a lot of skill and goal scoring if it all comes together. I’ll discuss more line pairings in my preview.
Another standout from the weekend is Victor Ejdsell. The 23-year old Sweedish forward scored two goals in the 5-2 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Ejdsell joined the Rockford IceHogs late last season, just in time for the Calder Cup Playoffs. In 13 games, the former Nashville Predator prospect scored 7 goals and dished out 5 assists. It was a promising start to his young pro career.
“It’s pretty deadly, it’s pretty heavy,” Rockford IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton said of his shot. “If he gets himself in position to get a good look at the net, it’s got a good chance of going in.” Quote from Mark Lazurus’ article on Ejdsell in the Chicago Sun-Times
As projections go, Ejdsell could carve out a solid role on the Blackhawks third line. More to come on that in my preview.
In honor of Stan Mikita, the Blackhawks will have a ceremony before their home opener on October 7th. Fans are encouraged to arrive early to honor the life and career of the Blackhawks legend.
In addition to the ceremony, the Blackhawks will wear a patch on their jersey to honor Mikita on their home and away jersey’s for the entire 2018-2019 season. The number 21 will also be painted on the ice behind each net for the entire season.
Johnathan Toews sat down with Scott Powers of the Athletic Chicago to talk about the long offseason and how he has been working on reigniting his game.
“Just having fun, working on skills, goofing around, just working on little things and all of a sudden you get out there in a scrimmage and everything feels easier and you can make little plays,” Toews said. “You realize what a lot of guys have been doing for years and why the league is so good and why there’s so much young talent nowadays because they’re ready and everyone’s working so hard and working at developing their game.”
Toews scoring numbers have been down the past few seasons but advanced metrics still show he is an above average player. The three-time Stanley Cup Champion is going to let his play do the talking and is excited for the challenge to bring his game to another level.
If Toews can regain his form, it brings plenty of optimism that the Blackhawks will be successful this season.
All eyes are on Corey Crawford as the hopes are that he passes his physical Thursday in preparation for training camp.
The last time we heard from the goaltender was at the Blackhawks convention. He told the media that he was not yet at 100% and that was very concerning to hear. Crawford is the backbone of this team and we saw what happened last season without him. Even a collected effort could not get the Blackhawks to the playoffs.
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic tweeted on Thursday that he was told Crawford was on the ice late last week. It is definitely a step in the right direction. We will know more once camp opens.