The Blackhawks didn’t practice on Wednesday after their Tuesday night loss in New Jersey. The good news (relatively speaking) was that they sent their top prospect back to Rockford after one game. That, hopefully, is an indication that Jonathan Toews will be good to go when they hit the ice for practice later today and will be back in the lineup when Winnipeg invades the United Center on Friday night. I’ve got a little something from said prospect a little later in today’s bullets.
- First, a schedule update for your New Year’s Eve plans. The Blackhawks are in Columbus on the final day of 2022, but you’ll be able to finish watching the game before heading out for the evening now. The game was moved up from 6 PM CT to noon. Thanks, NHL! I’m sure the Blackhawks are happy about that too… they host the Sharks at 6 PM CT on New Year’s Day.
- Earlier this week I wrote about the tough call the Blackhawks’ front office will have to make when considering keeping or trading Max Domi as we get closer to the trade deadline. His play has absolutely increased his value this season, which is also the case for Andreas Athanasiou. They signed matching one-year, $3 million deals in July. Ben Pope wrote about the two forwards’ experience in Chicago so far, and how they feel about the decision to sign prove-it deals with a team that wasn’t going to win many games.
- A couple quotes in the story from Domi are further examples of him being the kind of guy the Blackhawks should be looking to bring into the organization as they build the culture in the room.
“That was a no-brainer on my side,” Domi said. “I knew what the situation was. I was dealt a hand in Columbus which was unfortunate, and it is what it is. I battled through that, and now I have an opportunity to actually play hockey again. [I’m] just enjoying the moment.”
“Listen, if you’re going to get ice time, you better produce. It has been a minute [since I did], and I’m really enjoying it right now. I’ve got to work hard and find ways to be consistent. [I’m] trying to maximize everything we’re doing.”
- This is a guy who knows what he signed up for and is absolutely having fun playing the game. And he’s likely going to be rewarded when this season ends and he hits UFA because, well, he signed a prove-it deal and he’s proving it most nights (especially lately). Even if he is traded at the deadline, I would love it if the Hawks brought him back next year.
- After a quick trip to New Jersey to appear in his first NHL game of the season, Lukas Reichel was back with the IceHogs in time to help them beat Milwaukee in a shootout. And hoo boy was his move in the skills competition fun!
- We need to talk about the night Tage Thompson had last night for the Buffalo Sabres. If you bet the over you were a happy human after about 15 minutes of hockey. The Sabres took a 6-0 lead to the first intermission! And Thompson was responsible for four of the six goals. As you can see in the tweet below, he made a little bit of history in the process. Thompson finished the night with five goals and one assist (my fantasy team thanks him for his service). Buffalo won the game 9-4 and didn’t score in the third period.
- Here’s why I want to spend a little time talking about Thompson. He’s a big boy (6-7, 220 before he puts skates on) but he moves like a little guy. His handles are so impressive and he’s scored so many different ways this season he’s really becoming must-see TV. But he wasn’t always this guy. The St. Louis Blues selected him 26th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft (13 spots before the Blackhawks drafted Alex DeBrincat). Thompson got into 41 games for the Blues during the 2016-17 season and scored only three times (he did that in less than 10 minutes in the first period last night).
- The Blues traded Thompson to Buffalo as part of the massive deal that brought Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis. The Blues also sent veterans Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka as well as a first-round pick in the 2019 draft (Ryan Johnson) and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft (Benjamin Roger) to the Sabres. Between the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons, Thompson scored 15 goals in 104 NHL games. Some might have been happily ready to call him a bust at that point; he was 23 years old and five years past his draft class and really hadn’t done anything. But last year he blew up for 38 goals and 30 assists in 78 games. This year? He’s five-piece has him at 21 goals already in just 26 games.
- Moral of the story: sometimes it takes hockey players a little bit to be ready for the NHL game. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are some of the best players the game has ever seen, and them stepping right into the NHL and performing as well as they did is part of what makes them so special. Not everyone can do that. So keep guys like Tage Thompson in mind when wanting a kid to show up NHL-ready as a teenager. That isn’t the norm, and we’ve been incredibly blessed in this city to have two generational players do it recently.
- With development in mind, Scott Powers wrote a nice piece for Thursday morning in which he details a conversation he had with Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson before the game in New Jersey about the organization’s five prospects who were invited to Canada’s camp before the upcoming World Juniors.
- There were a couple prospects about whom I was specifically interested in reading Davidson’s take: forward Ryan Greene and defenseman Nolan Allan.
- Here’s part of what Davidson told Powers about Greene, who’s having a terrific freshman season at Boston University:
“I think (he’s been a surprise), not because we didn’t think he could do it, but it’s just a hard transition going to college. Especially USHL to college as a freshman is not the easiest transition. One, he’s going into a good program where playing time might not be available to him. His production has been there. I saw him a couple times when they came to Michigan. He plays with pace, plays hard. He’s comfortable with the puck and without the puck. He’s done really well, and I think he’s proven to the coaches there that he’s worthy of a bigger role.”
- And here’s part of what he had to say about Allan, who was the last first-round pick of the Bowman Regime. He was traded to Seattle during this season (in the WHL, not by the Blackhawks) and has been skating some with the Blackhawks’ most recent top pick, Kevin Korchinski:
“(I’ve been impressed by) his ability to adapt to that new position. I think he’s more of a defensive-leaning defenseman, but his ability to play minutes, and get out from (Prince Albert), which was having a bit of a tough couple of years after some success, and get on a good team, and I think it’ll be good for him to play more minutes and then also not to have to be the go-to guy and to being maybe more of an offensive supporter rather than offensive driver. And so, I think just that versatility has been something that’s been really, really promising for us.”
- Davidson added this on Korchinski: “I think the fact of how he got comfortable with the speed and the pace and some of the size that he was running up against in the [NHL] preseason and how he handled that was really, really promising.”
- Finally, considering players representing their countries in tournaments, one of the Cubs is going to play for Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.