We're two games into the 2018 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament and the Chicago Blackhawks are 1-1 following a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Friday and 5-2 win over Carolina on Saturday.
Following the game on Saturday afternoon, chicagoblackhawks.com caught up with Blackhawks VP of Hockey Operations/Team Affiliates Mark Bernard to discuss some of the prospects' individual performances. With the likes of Adam Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju, Nicolas Beaudin, Dylan Sikura, Victor Ejdsell and more, the club is very excited about the state of the franchise's prospect pool.
Video: Mark Bernard talks prospects
"This is may be one of our best teams we've ever brought to this tournament or any of our rookie tournaments since I've been involved," Bernard said. "There is a lot of talent on this team. It was almost too much (Friday), you know? Guys were trying to do things and they hadn't gelled. (Saturday) was a lot better. I thought the players looked a lot more cohesive out there and were making plays and then it showed up on the scoreboard.
"There's a lot of talent, there's a lot of skill and it's a good time to be a young player in this organization. If you're a fan, it's a good time to be excited about this organization because of the skill of the players we've drafted. (Vice President, Amateur Scouting) Mark Kelley and his staff have done a great job of watching these guys and drafting them. Our development guys will work with them and, hopefully, they're in a Blackhawks uniform sooner than later."
Check out below for Bernard's thoughts on some of the young Blackhawks.
Video: Traverse City: Sikura unleashes one-timer
"I think Dylan has shown very well here. He's a guy who has got some NHL games under his belt and sometimes those players make look at this and go, 'why am I going to Traverse City? I played in the NHL a little bit last year.' He doesn't take it like that. He knows this is a step just like Alex DeBrincat made last year. He has shown in his first two games why he had such a great college career. He's a very good player that thinks the game and has great offensive instincts."
"He's like a water bug for me. He stops and starts on pucks, he does all the right things, he's got a quick stick, makes quick decisions, he sees the ice very well. He's a smaller player, but he's not intimidated by any bigger players. He goes to the net and he's going to be an exciting guy to watch in training camp as the talent level rises as well."
"Both those players have shown very well to this point, Nicolas and Adam. Nicolas is a very skilled player as well, thinks the game at a high level, has great vision, and I really love his poise on the blueline."
"His first two games, I've been very impressed with his battle level. He is stronger this year. His compete and battle around the net front and in the corners is phenomenal for me and that's what it's going to take. There are a lot of strong players in the league, there are a lot of skilled players in our system with that battle and compete. It's going to be hard and it wears on a player night in and night out. He's built up the strength this summer so it's going to be nice to see."
"He's a skilled player, but he's also a very good defensive player. He plays the game the right way, he doesn't cheat, he doesn't cheat on the side of offense, he plays a strong defensive game, he's on the right side of the puck, he uses his stick well, he's physical, and he takes good angles. He's going to be a fun player to watch this year as he develops. Hopefully, he can come and have a good training camp in Chicago. If he lands back in Hamilton in the OHL, we'll keep a very close eye on him and I'm sure he'll continue to make great strides."
Video: Traverse City: Ejdsell snipes one
"He's such a special player. We were thrilled when we were able to obtain him from Nashville in the Ryan Hartman trade and he only played one game in Rockford before jumping up to Chicago to play in a half a dozen games. Then he came back to (Rockford) the last two or three games in the American League and then the playoffs, where he led the American League playoffs in rookie scoring. He just got better and better as we went along. I really think that will help him going into the season. When you bring a player over from Europe at the end of the year, they might only be in for one or two weeks and then they head home. He was in for a month and a half, two months, and he really got to play some meaningful games. He got a really good taste of the hockey over here. I think he's excited to start training camp and knows there are jobs to be had."
KEVIN LANKINEN AND ALEXIS GRAVEL
"I liked in both games their compete and battle. Both of them have had some really tough shots and they don't give up on pucks. They track the puck very well, they've battled, they've competed. Kevin could have had definitely a better fate (Friday) if we had scored a few for him. I thought both of them have played pretty well. Alexis (on Saturday) I thought made some outstanding saves when the game was close and got us the W."