Alec Regula Sees Benefits of Unified Messaging in Blackhawks Organization

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Alec Regula

Alec Regula Sees Benefits of Unified Messaging in Blackhawks Organization

Chicago Blackhawks

We’ve talked a lot about the size the Chicago Blackhawks have coming on the back end. There are a few guys who were able to get valuable experience in the NHL over the past couple seasons who bring that length to the blue line.

When I watched the Blackhawks start training camp, that size was something I wanted to see in person again. Because when it’s just development camp (read: only young prospects) or the prospect showcase (read: including some older prospects, but still mostly kids) the comparison for these players is other young players.

I wanted to see how veterans like Riley Stillman and Jake McCabe and Jack Johnson – all of whom are listed at 6-1 – compare with some of these youngsters.

One of the players who is practicing with the second group (“Team B”) thus far is Alec Regula. Regula is listed at 6-4 and 208 pounds as a 22-year-old right-shooting defenseman. And, along with Isaak Phillips (6-3, 194) and Filip Roos (6-4, 190) from that group, I can confirm the next generation is bigger than the present.

I spoke with Regula on Friday morning about how his game has grown and how the Blackhawks organization has changed since he got here.

But let’s backpeddle for a moment to his path to this training camp.

Regula’s father, Chet, was the team dentist for the Red Wings for years. So when Detroit made him a third-round pick (No. 67 overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, it was a legitimate dream come true. He’d been hanging around the Wings facilities for years with many of the legends who played there over the last two decades, and now being able to put on his hometown sweater as a player and not a fan was incredible.

Until the Red Wings traded him.

To the Blackhawks of all teams. And for forward Brendan Perlini, no less.

Regula wasn’t a courtesy pick for someone familiar with the organization; this isn’t Tommy Lasorda drafting Mike Piazza as a favor. He’s legit. Regula spent three years with the London Knights – the same organization that produced Patrick Kane and Max Domi (and dozens of other NHL stars). He was their captain his final season in London, a season in which he scored 27 goals and finished his 56-game regular season with 60 points as a defenseman.

The trade to Chicago happened at the start of that final junior season, but clearly the change of potential destination didn’t impact his drive to succeed. The following season he appeared in three games with the Blackhawks at the NHL level after signing his entry-level deal.

Last season, Regula became a regular at the top of the depth chart in Rockford. He scored four goals with 22 assists in 41 games with the IceHogs and added his first NHL goal in 15 games with the big club.

Surrounding his first two seasons as a professional has been massive upheaval in the Blackhawks organization. The front office turned over completely last year, and the coaching staff is totally new now as well. But Regula has seen improvements in the simplification of the messaging to young players like himself.

One of the elements in that communication structure that, strangely enough, started before Regula was traded to the Blackhawks is Brian Campbell.

Earlier in camp wrote about how Campbell has become such a valuable part of the front office and development staff, working with young defensemen like Phillips and Kevin Korchinski. His resume speaks for itself, but having him be able to directly communicate his concepts with young skaters in Chicago and Rockford is something a few young players have spoken about recently.

It didn’t start this week or last year for Regula. It started in London.

Regula told me that he started to have a relationship with Campbell and ask him questions when he was skating with Adam Boqvist, who the Blackhawks drafted eighth overall in 2018. They played just the 2018-19 season together but Regula was able to start a connection with Campbell back then that has carried through to today.

“[Campbell] is a great resource,” Regula said. “It’s been great to talk with him throughout my time in the organization. He’s one of those guys who’s done it, he’s been there. He’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s a great resource to have a guy like that around is great for all of us young guys.”

Campbell has been part of the structure in the Chicago front office as they build the foundation for general manager Kyle Davidson’s tenure. Regula told me the coaching changes last year didn’t really hurt him much; Derek King leaving Rockford for Chicago and Anders Sorensen taking over the head coaching job was relatively seamless.

Regula said it’s clear the new front office has prioritized the lines of communication between Chicago and Rockford. With King and Sorensen remaining with the organization this season it affords the young players some familiarity and continuity in the structure.

“They’ve done a really good job of keeping [the messaging] clear and concise and you can tell [Chicago and Rockford] communicate a lot with each other,” Regula said on Friday. “When I was first in Rockford, Kinger (Derek King) was the head coach and then Anders took over and now Kinger’s up here so they have that connection. And Anders has a good relationship with everyone around here.

They’ve done a good job of being on the same page. If you’re down there and you get called up it’s the same systems so they’re making it as easy as possible for us and it’s pretty obvious they’ve been working together a lot.”

Regula said he spent a lot of time in Chicago this summer working with the Blackhawks’ training staff. One of the areas they have focused on with him is moving the puck quickly. He laughed at the ironic idea of slowing the game down as fast as possible, but that’s what they want. Keep the rubber moving quickly, but don’t play at a pace that’s too fast and turns into rushed mistakes.

With that comes the work to get himself ready for a season in which he has a golden opportunity to make an impact at the NHL level. The Blackhawks haven’t told him if he’s destined for Rockford or headed to Chicago to start the season; that’s up to him and his play to decide. And he thinks he’s ready.

“I learned a lot last year of what it takes to play at the NHL level and I think I’ve grown since then and now I’m trying to put it all together,” he said. “Even though a lot of the staff has changed over, they’ve done a good job of keeping their message clear to us so we all know what we’re working towards.”

After the second group — mostly the veterans — worked out I asked Connor Murphy about his initial impressions of some of the younger defensemen. He pointed out Regula and Isaak Phillips specifically, saying they possess speed, size and reach with a hockey IQ in a package that isn’t common in the game.

“[Regula and Phillips] have a little [NHL] experience and you can tell they’re really hungry to take the next step,” Murphy said. “Which I know they will because… it’s the same thing. As a defenseman you want to get comfortable and get trust from your coaches and get your playing time up in minutes and be able to mold into a role in the NHL that’s effective.

As soon as the confidence hits and the minutes come they’re gonna make a huge impact.”

And the way he’s working, listening and taking advantage of his opportunities, the confidence is coming for Regula — and the ice time will likely follow soon.

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Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab