Lately, there has been a lot of negativity surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s for a good reason. The team has missed the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons and their future seems murky at best. There are a lot of decisions that the Blackhawks have to make this offseason. They are treading water between going through a rebuild and still trying to remain competitive during the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era. It should be a hectic summer for Chicago as the expansion draft with the Seattle Kraken adds another difficult element to their decision-making. Because of that, the team will probably look a lot different next year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get to know the players they have. So for a positive spin, here are some cool things about the 2020-21 roster.
1. The Bookworm
Kevin Lankinen is a fascinating case in and of itself. He is a 26-year-old prospect that went undrafted. He then worked his way through the Finnish hockey league and through Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs, for two years before making his Blackhawks’ debut this season. He was a player that was completely off the map until he undoubtedly became the team’s number one goaltender. That’s not all there is to him.
Lankinen mentioned that one of his hobbies is reading. He turned his hobby into his very own online book club. His book club is called ‘Lankisen lukupirri,’ which you can find on Facebook and Instagram. He launched it in 2019 and uses it as a way not only to recommend his favorite novels but also as a way to promote literacy in Finland. At his request, publishers of the books he recommends have taken a portion of the book profits and given it to a Finnish non-profit organization called ‘Icehearts,’ which assists at-risk children. How awesome is that? (from ‘How Blackhawks goalie Kevin Lankinen breathed new ‘life’ into literacy in Finland’ – The AthleticNHL – 01/16/2020)
Another Chicago connection with the book club, as Chicago Bulls forward/center Lauri Markkanen and former Blackhawks’ defenseman Olli Maatta, have joined it.
2. Mr. Number One
When it comes to Patrick Kane, we all know the accolades behind the name. Three Stanley Cups, the Hart Memorial Trophy, the nine-time All-Star, the future Hall of Famer and more. However, there is one record that he holds with the Blackhawks that might surprise you. Most people may know the fact that he was the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. What makes that nod even better is that he is the only first overall pick in Blackhawks’ history. What a cool honor and the man known as “Showtime” represents it very well.
3. Cat-Free Zone
Alex DeBrincat has been lovingly known as the “Cat” by Blackhawks’ fans since he made his NHL debut in 2017. The ironic thing is, he admitted in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago in 2018 that he isn’t a fan of cats. Moreover, he is actually very allergic to them.
4. Draft “Bust”
Like Kane, we all know the success that Duncan Keith’s name carries. Again, three Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophy’s, another future Hall-of-Famer and one of the best defensemen Blackhawks’ history. But could you imagine the team without him? Apparently, that was almost the case.
Keith was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NHL Draft by then-general manager, Mike Smith. In an interview with Mark Lazerus of The Athletic, Smith stated that Keith was considered an undersized defenseman at the time at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. So, he knew that pick would come with a lot of criticism. But he stuck to his intuition and with guidance from his director of amateur scouting, Bill Lesuk, he selected Keith anyways.
They both knew he could get bigger and that his skill was too good to pass up. However, the pick was so unpopular within the organization that Smith said it was a move that almost got him fired. He went on to say that the then-vice president, Bob Pulford was so critical of the work he did at the draft that he told him that Keith was the worst draft pick ever. (from ‘It was a living hell’: Mike Smith looks back on his time with the Blackhawks’ – The AthleticNHL – 05/14/2020 )
How exactly did that turn out, Pulford? That seems like the biggest “I told you so” moment for Smith. I’m so glad that he remained steadfast with his pick. What a turning point for the club!
5. CrossFit Influencer
No one has a bigger endorsement for CrossFit than center David Kampf. He stated that CrossFit is an offseason hobby for him and that he has been into it for about five years years now. He stated, “I like it because you can compete by yourself. You don’t have the influence of other guys, other people. You’re doing what you want. I like that about it. I think for sure a little bit helps with hockey. It’s tough to say. I think if you’re a good athlete, it will help on the ice. I think it can help you.” (from ‘How Blackhawks center David Kampf has made himself a valuable piece for the future’ – The AthleticNHL – 03/03/2021).
I agree with Kampf when he says it has been a benefit to him because he plays a defensive game where strength is an asset. I also think it has greatly helped him in the faceoff dot as well. He leads the team with a 52.77% success rate.
6. Dropping the Gloves
When it comes to center Kirby Dach, many things stand out about him on the ice. The first thing that comes to mind is his playmaking ability, but the other thing that stands out is his size. At 6-foot-4 and 197 pounds, one might wonder if he has ever used his size in other areas of the game; the fighting area. He hasn’t been an instigator during his two-year Chicago tenure so far, but that could change. While doing an interview with former Blackhawk- John Scott, Dach stated on Scott’s podcast that he has never gotten in a hockey fight in his entire career. He went on to say that he sees it as something he may incorporate in his game. So look out, fans, we may see another side of him as he continues to grow into the league.
7. Mr. Resilient
When defenseman Adam Boqvist played for the Swedish U18 team at the World Junior Championship in 2017, he opened up to his teammates and also gave a post-game interview in which he revealed that he has dyslexia. According to Mayo Clinic, dyslexia is defined as “a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words.” He stated:
When I’m reading something, I don’t remember it. When I write something, the words don’t come out right. I’m not so good at writing and reading … I cannot say I like school but you must be there.(from ‘On offence, he needs no coaching’: Adam Boqvist gives Sweden a second star defenceman in the NHL draft’ – Toronto Sun – 06/11/2018)
Boqvist’s then-coach, Torgny Bendelin said that he thought it was very strong of him to open up in that manner, especially considering that he was 16-years-old at the time. I couldn’t agree more!
8. Family Ties
One of the new faces that made the most noise was 22-year-old forward Brandon Hagel. He has a cool connection within the organization. Hagel is close with Blackhawks’ prospect Reese Johnson. Johnson made his NHL debut this season, having appeared in five games. Those two go way back. They have played on the same team for six years. They both played for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League from 2015-2019. They also played together in Rockford from 2019-20. And now, they are on Blackhawks’ together. Want to know what’s even crazier? According to Blackhawks’ correspondent Brandon Cain at NHL.com, Hagel and Johnson are also cousins!
9. Father/Son Duo
Speaking of family, there is another connection for defenseman Connor Murphy. His father, Gord Murphy, had a 16-year NHL career as a defenseman. He played for the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, and Atlanta Thrashers. They got some good hockey genes and they can make NHL history.
They can become the 17th father-son pairing in league history to play 500 games a piece. If Connor plays more games than his father’s 862 games, they will rank sixth all-time. Connor is currently at 494 games. (from ‘For Blackhawks’ Connor Murphy, father-son bond has defined NHL experience’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 06/15/2019).
They’ll be breaking the first record very soon, which is an amazing accomplishment!
10. Calories Galore
Ian Mitchell is an exciting defenseman in the Hawks’ prospect pipeline. He showed flashes of great skill during his NHL debut this season. But, the feedback that he continually gets is that he needs to gain weight. He is currently 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds. He said it is an area that he heavily focuses on. The way he has been doing that is through his diet. Some athletes may have some odd food combinations that they try to help them gain weight, and he has been doing it through milk. He wrote in a diary entry with The Athletic that his strength and conditioning coach at Denver University, Matt Shaw, recommended that he drink a gallon of 2% milk every two days to try to get as many calories as he can to gain weight. (from ‘Dominik Kubalik gets first taste of Blackhawks, Chicago during development camp’ – The AthleticNHL – 07/16/2019)
I think Mitchell should start a food diary video series with the Blackhawks because his diet seems intriguing.
The Blackhawks made their 2020-21 season interesting on the ice and they are just as interesting off the ice!
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Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.