While hundreds of fans have packed the stands at Johnny’s IceHouse West in the first three days of Prospect Camp, another keen hockey observer has been in the building as well: Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville. And it should be heartening to both fans and competing prospects that "Coach Q" likes what he has been seeing out on the ice.
“It’s been three days of unbelievably competitive practices, and nobody looks out of place,” Quenneville told the attending media Wednesday. “How they work, their conditioning, and how they compete has been great.”
The coach’s attendance at the annual summer camp is more than just to satisfy his curiosity; the coach knows that many of the prospects he watches on the ice this summer could be wearing the Indian Head sweater within the next few years, if not even sooner. Among the attendees to the 2011 Prospect Camp were Andrew Shaw, Dylan Olsen and Jimmy Hayes, all of whom saw regular time at the NHL level last season.
“Look at last year—a couple of kids from last year’s camp wound up making our team at points during the year, and they had some competition from other prospects along the way during training camp,” Quenneville said. “These guys keep getting better year after year, and you hear good reports during the season, as well. You like what you see.”
Of the players attending this summer’s edition of Prospect Camp, one of the early favorites to compete for an opening-night roster spot appears to be Brandon Saad, who played in four games with the Blackhawks last year, and led the OHL with 1.73 points per game for Saginaw in between NHL stints. Quenneville says he’s quite high on Saad, both from what he saw on the ice and reports he received over last season.
“We really like ‘Saader.’ He had a terrific start to his season last year, had a great year in juniors, and the reports were outstanding,” said Quenneville. “Then when he played in the playoffs, we liked what we saw there as well. Reports were he was a man among boys in the junior league, and he was dominant in a lot of games.
“We like his size, and by watching him out here, he looks like he’s ready to play. I think he can maybe not just make our team, but [do] more than that.”
Additionally, Quenneville noted that he liked the performances of many of the Blackhawks’ top center prospects, including 2011 draft picks Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, as well as 2012 first-rounder Teuvo Teravainen.
“[Teravainen]’s line looked good—he scored a goal, set up a goal. He had two or three nice plays. He’s got some strength on his stick. I think he’s going to be one of those real tricky kinds of players. I think his vision and the way he anticipates plays offensively will make him really fun to watch.”
Quenneville also gave a brief update on the condition of Marian Hossa, who has been recovering in Slovakia since his season-ending injury in the playoffs. Hossa will attend the annual Blackhawks Convention next weekend, a chance to reconnect with his teammates for the first time since the playoffs ended.
“[Hossa’s] doing fine,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him in town next week. Reports have been good—we look forward to seeing him face to face.”