Following the Blackhawks' recent Prospects Camp, head coach Denis Savard lamented the fact that defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson
was planning to return to Sweden for the upcoming season. Now Savard has something else to look forward to come training camp.
Hjalmarsson, a 4th round pick in 2005, has elected to play in North America this season, which means he'll suit up for Rockford of the American Hockey League if he does not make the Blackhawks roster rather than join Lulea in the Swedish Elite League.
"He was so effective in prospect camp and we were so happy with his play that we had a discussion with him," said Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon. "We were very positive and told him he had a good chance to play early in the NHL and that this was the best situation for him.
"He likes playing in the smaller rink and he liked the way we treated him [at camp]."
Tallon considered Hjalmarsson one of the top players at this year's World Junior Championship, along with Hawk prospects Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
"He got some experience on the [Swedish] national team as a youngster and played very well in some big games for them," Tallon added. "He's very quick, takes the body and closes the gap. He reads the play nicely, has great hands and is a good passer.
"He's just a real solid player. He's not only good defensively, but he can help out offensively as well."
The Blackhawks have released the rights to restricted free agent defenseman Bruno St. Jacques, who was made expendable by Hjalmarsson's decision.
Winger Pierre Parenteau and defenseman James Wisniewski are the only restricted free agents without new contracts. Tallon expects to get both signings done soon.