Like many first-time visitors to Chicago, Dominik Kubalik spent much of his time sightseeing and meeting some interesting people.
The Czech Republic native and Blackhawks prospect was most impressed with "the parks and all the buildings" and declared Chicago "beautiful."
Kubalik, whom the Blackhawks acquired in a trade with the Kings in January, was in town with his girlfriend this week getting his first taste of the city while also meeting with Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman, coach Jeremy Colliton, several Blackhawks players and fellow prospects at the 2019 Blackhawks Development Camp.
The visit helped familiarize Kubalik with the surroundings, which will come in handy because the next time he arrives in Chicago it will be all business at training camp.
"One of the reasons we wanted to get him here is so that he's not meeting everybody for the first time in September," Bowman said. "So he's around the city, he's around the training facility (and) he can meet some people so that he's more comfortable and he can just focus on hockey. If you show up for the first time there you're trying to figure out where to go and also perform well on the ice … and this was an opportunity to get familiar with his surroundings a little bit."
That plan worked as Kubalik, who did not take the ice during development camp after playing well into the spring in Switzerland and then at the World Championships, looked relaxed and comfortable as he described his time in Chicago.
"It's something special even to be here," Kubalik, 23, said. "I had a chance to meet a couple of guys who are practicing here from the team so that's huge and I talked to coach (and) I talked to Stan. The most important thing is to get to know each other and be a little bit around. I'm so excited when things start for real. It's just a dream come true already and I hope it will continue."
Kubalik was an under-the-radar acquisition by Bowman, who in May inked the forward to a one-year, $925,000 contract, but there is a very real possibility Kubalik could win a spot on the Opening Night roster.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Kubalik impressed Bowman & Co. by leading the Swiss League in scoring during the 2018-19 season with 25 goals and 32 assists in 50 games with HC Ambri-Piotta, and then following that up with six goals and six assists in 10 games while representing the Czech Republic in the 2019 World Championships.
"Dominik's really been impressive the last couple years in Europe - he's taken some steps," Bowman said. "Each year, he's built on the previous year to the point where he led the league in scoring in Switzerland…and was a go-to guy not only to score goals but to make plays.
"For me it was impressive to see his performance at the World Championship where he was against other NHL players," Bowman continued. "Team Canada and USA and Russia had some high-end players and he was really about to take that step and show us he can compete on that stage."
That is some pretty heavy praise for Kubalik, but his progression after being selected by the Kings in the seventh round (191st overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft has brought along some lofty expectations.
"In the last couple of years I've always been trying to make steps to be better," Kubalik said. "I just want to show the Blackhawks that I'm ready for it and I'm ready to take the chance. I just want to be the guy who I was last year when I had a great season with Ambri."
Kubalik plans to spend part of the summer training in his hometown of Plzen, Czech Republic, with former Czech League teammates on HC Plzen before returning to Chicago to make a run at securing a spot on the Blackhawks.
"Obviously, I need to have a great summer and come prepared to be ready for everything," Kubalik said. "I have something in my head about what I need to do and where I need to go and what I need to accomplish but my goal is to make the Blackhawks, that's for sure. I'll do everything I can do to that."