Defensemen James Wisniewski was one of more than 20 Blackhawk players who participated in pre-training camp workouts last week at the Edge in Bensenville. Adam Kempenaar caught up with the 23 year-old blueliner to see how he is recovering from knee surgery, his mindset coming into camp and more.
You had ACL surgery on your right knee in March. How are you feeling?
I feel great. I worked hard all summer. I’ve been working out since the beginning of April. My knee feels great; turning is a little slow right now, but straight up and down I feel just as good as I did before.
Did you workout here in Chicago this summer?
I spent a little over a month here. Throughout the summer I'd come in for about a week and see what kind of range I could do and see the level I could work at. You can’t go too far with your rehab. I started to do mini-squats and then two or three weeks later I’d come in and see what else I could do. I came in at the beginning of August and started plyometrics and I just got cleared to play two weeks ago.
Is this pre-camp the first time you've been on the ice?
I got the OK to start skating by myself at the beginning of August. I skated three or four times by myself and before this camp I was able to skate five or six times. It was really light. I didn’t trust my knee that much and I didn't want to rush anything. It’s going to be a long season. I'm looking forward to it.
Is there anything you aren't able to do at this point?
I'm still not cleared to do that much jumping and the plyometrics aren’t like I was last year getting prepared for the season. I just started being able to ride the bike hard in late July. I’m trying to do a little bit of catch-up before training camp. I'm taking it slow. We still have another month before the season starts and I’ll take it day by day and see how it feels.
We talked a few weeks ago about the general shape you are in, how you are feeling better than ever. How much of that is your diet?
I got on this diet from our nutritionist, Julie. I feel like my body fat has gone down. I feel energized; I don’t feel tired or weak. I feel great. I personally think right now I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Maybe not totally cardiovascular wise, because I’m obviously getting a late start, but the way I feel inside and energy-wise.
This is the first training camp where the expectations for you are to be one of the top six defensemen. How does that affect your approach and mindset coming in?
I approach training camp thinking I have to make the team every year. There are great defensemen that probably won't make the team and that’s just the reality. I don’t want to be one of those defensemen. I’m going to go into training camp working as hard as I can to solidify my spot this year. Nothing is ever given in this world and you have to take it.
What are you expecting from Jim Vandermeer this year?
I’m expecting great things out of Jimmy Vandermeer. He’s going to be a leader for our team. Actually, he’s one of our older guys; we don’t have too many mid-range guys. We have young guys and our veterans. On our defensive core, with Andrei Zyuzin, he’s probably the most experienced. He’s going to lead hopefully by example and he’s going to come out more tenacious than ever and get back to playing his game.