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BLOG: Kurashev Shows Improvement in First Pro Season | #FifthThirdBetter

Forward turned corner in rookie year before injury derailed momentum late

by Carter Baum @CarterBaum / Blackhawks.com

Among the 31-man roster that made the trip to Edmonton for the Blackhawks on Sunday, Philipp Kurashev's inclusion might've flown under the radar. But the Blackhawks know it won't be that way for much longer. 

"He's got high-end offensive creativity," Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman said. "He's got great vision, great skills, quick hands, he can score, he can make plays."

Kurashev's first pro season with the Rockford IceHogs was really a tale of three parts.

At Thanksgiving, the forward had posted six points (2G, 4A) in his first 16 games. But then, something clicked. Over his next 12 games, he scored 11 points (3G, 8A) before getting injured just before the end of the calendar year. He returned for the final two weeks of the season before it was paused, scoring three points (1G, 2A) in seven games. 

After the AHL season was canceled in May, Rockford head coach Derek King raved about Kurashev as one of the most improved players, admitting the injury derailed what could've been a remarkable year. 

"It's too bad he got hurt, I think you would have maybe seen him (recalled) earlier or you would have seen him higher in our points," King said. "Kurashev I believe is going to be an NHL hockey player. Whether it's a year or two down the road, it's going to be up to him, but I really like the way he performed. He looks like a pro (and) he does everything like a pro."

"It was kind of that adjustment for him (early on)," Assistant General Manager/Player Development Mark Eaton added. "From an on-ice standpoint, (he's) such a smart player, so skilled, strong on the puck and once he did settle in and was playing regularly, practicing regularly, he was an impact player."

Video: CHI@BOS: Kurashev beats Rask on odd-man rush

While Kurashev was included in the roster with the full confidence that he can contribute if needed, his time in Edmonton will likely be spent staying in game shape with an outside chance at that possibility. The larger benefit of his inclusion, though, will come down the road from even more acclimation to the pro level -- and getting a taste of what it looks like on the NHL stage. 

"They may end up playing here at some point if we can sustain a run, but a big part of this is just the development opportunity to be around our team as we're preparing for some pretty big games here," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They get to see what the routine is like and the pace that we're going to practice at and the preparation necessary to be an NHL player."

"I think this time in Chicago over the last few weeks and the training camp will be a great experience for him," Eaton said. "Something that will kind of let him see where he is currently and how close he is or how far away he is, but an experience that will really streamline his development going forward."

Kurashev's time might not be now, but it will come soon enough. 

"I think the future is bright for him," Bowman said. "I think I could see him being an offensive player for us in the coming years."

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