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NOTEBOOK: Wrapping up 2019 Development Camp

Standout players, thoughts from Director of Player Development Mark Eaton and a special guest during the week-long camp

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc / Blackhawks.com

Those in attendance at the 2019 Blackhawks Development Camp scrimmage did more than just beat the sweltering Chicago heat on Friday, they also got themselves a glimpse at the future.

And it looks pretty darn bright.

It didn't take long for that to become obvious as Adam Boqvist dropped jaws early in the scrimmage by undressing fellow prospect Joshua Ess with a slick move before feeding Josiah Slavin for the easy goal.

Tweet from @CarterBaum: Good morning, Adam Boqvist 👀#Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/VIhIJskVU4

Boqvist, the Blackhawks' top pick (No. 8 overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, was asked afterward to describe his thought process while making that move.

"I have no idea," the defenseman said. "Sometimes it surprises you if you do it."

While there were other standouts during the scrimmage, namely Kirby Dach, Ian Mitchell, Philipp Kurashev, MacKenzie Entwistle and Brandon Hagel, among others, Boqvist was arguably the best player on the ice.

It would be easy to throw around comparisons of Boqvist to current Blackhawks, but the 18-year-old said "the only thing I can do is be myself. I can't be Patrick Kane or Duncan Keith or anyone."

Despite the Blackhawks' shortcomings on defense a season ago, it would be a stretch for Boqvist to be on the Opening Night roster, even if he does appear to be NHL ready.

Director of Player Development Mark Eaton said that like most young blue liners, more seasoning is needed for Boqvist.

"I say it all the time with defensemen-it's an experience thing and getting experience at the pro level, whether it's the AHL or NHL whatever that next step is for him," Eaton said. "You saw some of the things that he can do on the ice out there (Friday) and kind of finding out for himself which of those moves…will work at whatever level he's playing and learning to play against bigger, faster and stronger guys.

"His progression over this past year, I thought, was phenomenal," Eaton continued. "The steps that he took with the defensive habits in his game, I've always said that he's underrated in that aspect. He's such a smart player that it's not just one side, he's not just smart offensively. He's coachable and he's able to figure things out defensively as well."

Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman also said Boqvist's defensive game has come a long way since the Blackhawks drafted the Falun, Sweden, native.

"Probably the biggest thing I've noticed is his defending with the stick," Bowman said. "He's got a very active stick and that's going to be something he'll have to be good at because he's not a big guy, although he does look stronger.

"I think he's worked hard at that part of his game to be more physically able to battle," Bowman added. "But his defending is going to be more through the use of his stick and his brain, his smarts and his quickness."


GOOD BEGINNING

Dach also had a strong camp, including scoring two goals and adding an assist during the scrimmage. The No. 3 overall selection in the 2019 displayed a rare combination of size and skill for Team White in its 6-5 loss to Team Red.

Tweet from @CarterBaum: Kirby Dach gets Team White on the board just before the end of the 1st with a nice individual effort. 4-1 at the intermission. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/ty1rBtxK8q

"I showed that I was ready to kind of take a step in the right direction in becoming a pro this year," Dach said afterward of his experience at the camp. "I learned a lot of things off the ice and how to handle myself with the ways I eat and cook. We did a lot of things surrounding that area of the game because the game's become a lifestyle. You don't just show up at the rink and it happens. You have to do the right things away from the rink. I learned a lot that way and just how to become a pro overall."

It's also not out of the realm of possibility that Dach could make the Opening Night roster, but the 18-year-old center isn't obsessing over it.

"Obviously, it's your dream and goal as an athlete to get there as fast as you can but…it's kind of out of my control," Dach said. "I don't really have any push or say when it comes to push or shove. So I've just got to go out there and do the right things."

Dach said he will spend the rest of the summer improving his game, particularly his skating.

"You can never be a fast enough skater in this league," he said. "You see how fast guys have become and (how)…they think the game. If I'm able to have the foot speed and that quickness in the first three steps, it will help me out to kind of get to where I want to be quicker."

Following Friday's scrimmage, Eaton gave his take on Dach.

"For such a young kid, he's so strong," Eaton said. "This was a demanding week and with the low numbers they had even with the scrimmage (Friday) at the end of the one period he was able to chase a guy down on a breakaway and lift his stick and then pickpocket him.

Tweet from @CarterBaum: That two-way game from Dach that Stan Bowman talked about on Draft weekend. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/3K8R8TlfbN

"He's an exciting player (and) a great kid who fit in amongst the group and showed an eagerness and a willingness to want to do what it takes to get everything out of himself."
 

FUTURE WATCH

Eaton didn't want to single out players who stood out in the camp because, "I have to work with all these guys."

But Eaton was asked about particular players beyond Boqvist and Dach and did have this to say:

On defenseman Nicolas Beaudin: "He's just an all-around good player, both ends of the ice. For him, too, making the jump to the pros, it's going to be the biggest thing, let's see how he handles playing bigger, stronger guys. There's not really one weakness in his game that you can point to that's going to keep him from the NHL. At this point, it's just a strength factor and getting stronger and being able to battle against bigger, stronger guys, (it is) just getting the experience and learning to play against pros."

On forward Mathias From: "He's in the conversation. The NHL talent, the skating, the shot is all at an NHL level so it's just a matter of doing the things away from the puck (and) being able to influence plays on the defensive side. (It's) just continue to work on that while trying to find ways to use those great gifts that he has."
 

THE RED BARON

The Blackhawks had a special visitor to development camp when former Cubs pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Rick Sutcliffe watched drills alongside President & CEO John McDonough.

Sutcliffe, who captured the 1984 National League Cy Young Award after helping the Cubs win the N.L. East Division, became a Blackhawks fan in '84 after arriving in Chicago via a trade with the Indians.

"Mr. McDonough and I go back to our days with the Cubs and he will tell you that during the Blackhawks' championship season in 2010, I became so superstitious - which I'm not normally that guy - I would text him before every Stanley Cup game just thinking it was an important part of us winning," Sutcliffe said.

Sutcliffe credits the Blackhawks' Cup titles in '10, '13 and '15 with helping the current sports scene in Chicago become the greatest in the city's history.

"I've always said that in the history of sports to be in Chicago in the mid- to late-1980s, I didn't think anybody could top that," Sutcliffe said. "The Cubs in 1984 finally got to the playoffs, the Bears won the Super Bowl in '85, this kid named Michael Jordan came to town and the Blackhawks were always the toughest ticket for anybody to get. If you were a sports fan and you were in Chicago you'll never forget that time up until all of a sudden what the Blackhawks did with the three championships and then what the Cubs did in '16.

"The last four years for the Cubs has been without a doubt the greatest stretch in the history of a Cubs fan who is still alive," Sutcliffe continued. "And you think about the Blackhawks and you think about the excitement and the joy and the parades and millions of people who have shown up. Since 2015, I would say that Chicago has now rivaled where it was back in the mid- to late-80s."

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