The Chicago Blackhawks open training camp on Thursday, September 23rd, back in Chicago. But before then, their rookies and prospects are taking part in the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase in St. Paul, Minnesota, with the Minnesota Wild. The prospects will be coached by the Rockford IceHogs coaching staff, led by head coach Derek King. King is entering his sixth year with the Blackhawks organization and third behind the bench as the head coach of the IceHogs in the AHL. Ahead of the first prospect showcase game tonight, King spoke to the Chicago media about the mini-camp and his expectations for the players through the week.
You can find the full video here:
Hogs 🎥: Head Coach Derek King previews this weekend's Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase between @NHLBlackhawks & @mnwild prospects. Game 1 is tonight at 7 p.m. and watch live on the @mnwild YouTube page! pic.twitter.com/ME5XvvvcIH
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) September 17, 2021
King spoke about several key prospects participating in the showcase, including goaltender Arvid Söderblom and forward Lukas Reichel. On Söderblom, King said he wasn’t coming into the camp or the season with any expectations for the rookie netminder, “He looks comfortable, He’s big, moves well. So I’m getting a fresh take on him as we go.”
The expectations after two practices for King are limited. However, following the two-game stint in the almost week-long showcase, maybe there will be more to know about all prospects taking part in the showcase.
This year is a change from the usual prospect camp schedule the Blackhawks and King would usually see. With the offseason pushed back and COVID restrictions in mind, the Blackhawks are not participating in their usual Traverse City Rookie Tournament. They are instead working with the Wild for the showcase. King says he prefers the mini-camp style over the “grind” that Traverse City presents to the players and coaches.
Another player that King spoke about specifically is rookie forward Lukas Reichel. The Blackhawks’ first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Reichel, is not a player like Söderblom, coming into the showcase with little known about him. However, Blackhawks fans have started to get a sense of what to expect from Reichel after his two seasons playing professionally in the German DEL. “His skill level is standing out as one of the better in the group,” King said of the 19-year-old Reichel.
But as far as a player that has “wowed” King and his staff, there is no such prospect so far through two practices. “No one is standing out or ‘wowing’ us so far. But that’s a good thing because everyone is looking good so far through these two days. Ask me after the two games, maybe I’ll have a different answer.”
You can find the viewing information for the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase here:
How To Watch the Blackhawks at the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcasehttps://t.co/4ODS7EAVyP
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) September 15, 2021
As far as the approach to making the lineups and giving guys playing time, King says there’s not much strategy to be had in a showcase atmosphere. “I’ve never benched a kid in a rookie tournament,” King joked, “I let the guys decide the lineups based on where they are comfortable and where they think the club wants to see them play…We’ll roll all four lines and mix things in on the powerplay and penalty-kill.”
King said that Lukas Reichel would play Center during the showcase, a spot that the Blackhawks could use some future depth at and a position that Reichel played in the DEL with Eisbären Berlin.
Both games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon will be streamed on the Minnesota Wild’s YouTube page.