There’s only a few more days of practice before the Chicago Blackhawks head to Edmonton for their best-of-five series against the Oilers. As we get closer to this deadline, there is no shortage of news and rumors.
Thursday was a very good day for the Blackhawks and their fans. Captain Jonathan Toews and defensemen Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy all three returned to practice after absences.
Toews left practice Monday after breaking his stick, and never returned. He also missed Tuesday, and the Blackhawks were off on Wednesday. Needless to say, it was a huge relief when Toews took to the ice Thursday morning.
When speaking with reporters after their scrimmage, Toews was diplomatic about his absence. “I was unfit to participate, I guess. It really came down to maintenance, nothing serious. Felt pretty good out there today.”
Considering all the secrecy of this new “unfit to participate” designation, I guess that’s all we’ll ever know about the matter. The good news is the captain is back.
De Haan had been out since the second day of camp due to a family emergency. But he’s finally returned, and skated separately from the team on Tuesday. He joined the first group in practice on Thursday, and his defensive partner in the scrimmage was Nick Seeler. He looked great, like he hadn’t missed a beat.
Murphy was declared “unfit to participate” on the fourth day of camp, but skated before practice on both Tuesday and Thursday. He even joined the team Thursday for a short amount of time before the scrimmage started. It appears Murphy is working through a minor injury. Let’s hope the Blackhawks are simply being cautious and he can practice in full soon.
While it seems lately there are new developments every day, these are obviously good developments! Now the only shadow remaining over Blackhawks’ training camp is the continued absence of goaltender Corey Crawford.
Toews Denies Report
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in his recent podcast that the Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes were the only two teams that voted no for the NHL’s Return to Play. Toews is the representative for the Blackhawks.
But Toews indicated that he, in fact, voted yes. Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago acutely pointed out that Toews could have voted no as the team representative, but yes individually. Here’s what Toews had to say:
I don’t know where he got that from. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know how much I want to get into my reasons why, but I wasn’t one of the guys who voted no. I voted yes. If anything, I kind of wanted the guys in our room to educate themselves on what was going on, to the best of their ability and ultimately make their own decision.
Whether he voted yes or no is a moot point, really. The return to play was voted in, and everyone was given the chance to opt if they so chose. What’s most important to note here is Toews had the best interest of his fellow players in mind. It sounds as if he asked good questions and stuck up for those who had concerns about their safety.
Bowman on Latest Signings
Let’s start with Pius Suter, the forward from Switzerland. Blackhawks’ assistant coach Marc Crawford coached him in Zurich and liked what he saw. Bowman expressed excitement about his offensive potential, and likened him to Dominik Kubalik with a slightly different style. He elaborated,
…but in looking for an offensive player, ability to make plays, it’s important to have talented guys who can make plays and be offensive contributors, and that’s what we expect from him.
Bowman further predicted they think he will play for the Blackhawks next season.
Wyatt Kalynuk is a defenseman that served as captain at the University of Wisconsin. Bowman said they’ve watched him closely since his draft year. They’re excited about his skating and his mobility, and think he will complement the existing group of Blackhawks’ defensemen.
Finally, defenseman Ian Mitchell is the most notable of the three additions. He’s a top prospect selected by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Mitchell didn’t sign with the team last year because he wanted to spend one more season with the University of Denver, honing his craft. Bowman thought he was ready then, so hopes are high for him this upcoming season.
Mitchell spoke with reporters on a Zoom call this past Wednesday, and said he loved watching Duncan Keith while growing up. Now he might have a chance to play with him. He also discussed playing with Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin.
Maybe it could be not so dissimilar to 2009 or 2008, when they were building for the three Cups. They had a lot of young defensemen in the pipeline then with Keith, [Brent] Seabrook … Brian Campbell and guys like that…Adam and Nick and I have become pretty good friends from development camps. Getting to play with those guys next year will be a really good time, and hopefully we can be that ‘next wave’ that Hawks fans have seen before.(Source: ‘Ian Mitchell sees himself, Boqvist, Beaudin as Blackhawks ‘next wave’ of defensive talent’, The Chicago Sun-Times – 7/22/20)
Bold words from the 21-year-old! Let’s hope he’s on to something.
One more final tidbit; head coach Jeremy Colliton said the Blackhawks will not practice in Chicago on Sunday, but will instead travel to Edmonton and practice there. Might as well get to that bubble as soon as they can.
Buckle up Blackhawks’ fans; I think this return to play is really going to happen!