Alex Vlasic Is Oozing Confidence in Camp, and the Blackhawks Are Taking Notice

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Alex Vlasic Is Oozing Confidence in Camp, and the Blackhawks Are Taking Notice

Chicago Blackhawks

As I covered the Blackhawks’ final leg of the 2021-22 season, there wasn’t much to cling to in terms of the standings. But with a rebuild looming, I was able to focus on some of the players who might be here when the dust finally settled. One of those guys was Alex Vlasic, who made his NHL debut in March after wrapping up his senior season at Boston University.

Vlasic’s first month with the Blackhawks was a blur for the rookie, who admitted that the NHL game was far faster than he imagined. But I remember a performance he had in late April against the Flyers where Vlasic looked like things might be slowing down a bit for him.

Vlasic logged 23 shifts (16:10 of ice time total) and led the Blackhawks in ice time during that night’s first period. He also got three shots off and looked the part of an NHL defenseman — specifically, he started to recognize better while formulating and executing a plan, rather than delivering that deer-in-the-headlights look we saw from him during his first month of pro hockey.

What was arguably his best performance of the season came on the heels of his worst performance, when he looked lost against the San Jose Sharks on a west coast trip before the final homestand of the season. I went back to a story on that game to find this quote from Vlasic after the Philadelphia performance:

“I think just playing a little bit more, getting more comfortable, whether it’s with my teammates or even in practice, just getting a feel for the speed of the game, and the more games you get, the more comfortable you get with it, and I think that’s been a big part.”

Just as Vlasic’s performance in that Flyers game stuck out to me as a big moment for the 20-year-old defenseman, his performance in the development camp has been one of the most impressive of the group.

After today’s practice, I asked Vlasic if he feels like things have come more into focus for him since his debut last March, and Vlasic confirmed what my eyes were telling me.

“Yeah, for sure, I do feel a lot more comfortable,” Vlasic said. “I think it also just comes from skating with Brian Keane, our skills coach. He has a lot of good drills for me to do in the offseason, and those have been paying off, but yeah definitely getting used to the speed. I feel myself getting more and more comfortable.”

Not only does Vlasic feel more comfortable, but he’s also exuding that confidence, and the coaching staff and development team are taking notice.

Player Development chief Mark Eaton called Vlasic one of the more impressive performers in camp this week on Wednesday and mentioned that he’s taken a leadership role among the prospects in camp.

“Vlasic coming off of the end of the season playing 15 games in the NHL, has really taken on a leadership role here,” said Eaton.

When asked about Eaton’s comments, Vlasic said that he remembers being the younger guy at one of these camps, so he made it a point to serve as a leader for the prospects in attendance this week.

“It’s mostly younger guys, and I had one before where I was kind of a younger guy, so I know a little bit more than most of the people coming in. I know how things work around here, so I just kind of wanted to make people feel a little bit more comfortable and give them some direction in terms of what the normal things to do around here are.”

Today, alone, Vlasic was one of the most noticeable skaters on the ice. He beat goalie prospect Drew Commesso with ease for a goal on a two-on-zero drill early in practice and then delivered a nifty pass to Landon Slaggert for a goal in a three-on-three drill.

Kyle Davidson and the Blackhawks decided at the end of the season not to have Vlasic join the Rockford IceHogs in their Calder Cup Playoff run, opting instead to give Vlasic a full offseason after playing his final collegiate season and then immediately joining the Blackhawks down the stretch.

Turns out there was a little more to that as Vlasic admitted that he was dealing with a minor groin injury down the stretch, so the decision to shut it down after the Blackhawks season was welcomed.

“It’s been really good,” Vlasic said. “Last season, I was kind of battling a groin injury for a little bit, so this offseason has been nice to kind of get into the gym every single day, put on a good amount of weight, and just really focus on the physical aspect of my game.”

Vlasic says that he’s feeling good now though and he’s focused on putting on a little more weight and muscle while working on making his game a little bit faster with the puck before the training camp opens up sometime in September.

“I just think keep doing what I’m doing. Put on a little more weight, finish off the muscle I need to put on, and keep doing some on-ice drills like quick retrievals to just try to make my game a little bit faster with the puck.”

New assistant coach Kevin Dean – who spent much of the last decade working for the Bruins – has been tasked with the defenseman here at camp and moving forward for the Blackhawks, so I asked him today what his early impression of Vlasic was.

“Big kid that can skate really well,” Dean said. “I’ve watched some of his games from last spring when he came out of BU. He seems to have composure with the puck. He skates well for a big guy. That’s a good start. A big guy who can skate is great, and if he’s got the composure to make some plays even better, he seems to have those ingredients. 

Dean echoed Vlasic’s comments that more weight and muscle will need to be developed before Vlasic can begin to reach his ceiling, but Dean said that will come naturally with age.

“I’m sure we’re going to have to work with him on some strength issues, but that’s going to come as he becomes a man in his mid-twenties, he’ll get stronger.”

Dean said they wouldn’t have a good idea of what Vlasic’s ceiling might look like for another year or two, but the start to the Wilmette native’s career looks pretty promising from where I stand.


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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.