Bryan Bickell was a popular interview subject Sunday morning at United Center.
Bickell has been a breakout star for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring five goals in the first two rounds and being a physical force on a new-look top line in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday before Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings he could see this type of player in Bickell a long time ago -- during his first extended time with the team during the 2009-10 season.
"We played him with [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick Kane] that year," Quenneville said. "We gave him a little bit more opportunity with the Nashville series, played a little bit. There's ability there. You like his size, his speed. He can shoot and be physical. He's got all the elements that you look for in a power forward. Putting it all together has been a process."
Bickell played in 16 regular-season games in 2009-10, and his second-most frequent linemates in that span were Toews and Kane (he also spent about the same amount of time on a line with Colin Fraser and Tomas Kopecky and a line with John Madden and Dustin Byfuglien).
He did get to play in four postseason games that year as well during the Blackhawks' run to the Stanley Cup. Bickell's name is not on the Cup, but he was a part of the title pursuit.
"You know, to experience what they went through in 2010 was unbelievable, just to be there, to see what it takes to win the ultimate goal," Bickell said. "Experience-wise, it was a good learning experience for me to bring my game where it is."
Bickell had a nice season in 2010-11 in his first full NHL campaign with 17 goals and 37 points. His production went backwards last season, but he rebounded with nine goals and 23 points in 48 games in 2012-13.
When asked about any NHL players he looked at as examples for himself, he offered up a name that will be in the dressing room down the hall from him Sunday night.
"I think you look at [Dustin] Penner," Bickell said. "He's a similar player to me. He's a bigger guy that has good puck possession, got a great shot. I think looking at when he was in Edmonton, I kind of patterned myself a similar style as he did. But, you know, I'm not Penner. It's my own game. I just need to bring it every night."