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RELEASE: Blackhawks agree to extension with Nilsson

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / Blackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have agreed to terms with forward Jacob Nilsson (JAY-kuhb NEEL-suhn) on a one-year contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season ($700,000).

Originally signed by the Blackhawks on May 31, 2018, Nilsson spent time with Chicago and the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League this year during his North American professional debut. He played in two games for the Blackhawks, making his National Hockey League debut on Dec. 23 vs. FLA. Nilsson registered 15 goals and 17 assists in 61 games for the IceHogs during the 2018-19 campaign.

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FEATURE: Sikura embracing the development process

Dylan Sikura made significant strides in 2018-19, even if the offensive numbers weren't there

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

The word "panic" doesn't appear in Dylan Sikura's vocabulary. 

Sure, 2018-19 was challenging at times but there was never an urge to hit the big red button.

For being an offensively dynamic 23-year-old forward, Sikura's production wasn't near what he or anyone else might have expected in his first full professional season. He tallied no goals and just eight assists in 33 NHL games through two separate stints.

But to his credit, Sikura kept jumping over those boards. Shift after shift, game after game, he kept on putting in the effort to pull it all together.

But it was still a bit of a rollercoaster. He was up with the Blackhawks and then he was down skating with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. He was up again and then he was down again.

"You don't really know what to expect until you get [to the pros]," Sikura said. "I know there are a lot of cliche phrases used but they're true. It really is a grind. I think this year for me, going up and down a couple of times kind of takes a toll on you a little bit mentally. But I think I've had a good approach every time I've been up or down."

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BLOG: Four CHL prospects in action during weekend slate

Nicolas Beaudin, MacKenzie Entwistle, Alexis Gravel and Jake Ryczek begin playoff series

by Austin Siegel / blackhawks.com

Four Blackhawks prospects are in action this weekend, as the Canadian Hockey League playoffs have reached the semifinals. 

In the Ontario Hockey League, MacKenzie Entwistle and the #4 Guelph Storm are facing the #2 Saginaw Spirit in the Western Conference Finals. Entwistle grabbed two third period goals in the Storm's come-from-behind Game 7 win over Adam Boqvist and the London Knights this week. 

After trailing 3-0 in the series against London, Entwistle and Storm battled back to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2014. Entwistle has five goals and eight assists in OHL playoff action. 

The Storm play Game 2 against Saginaw at 6:05 CT on Saturday night in Michigan, after falling 7-2 in Game 1 on Thursday. 

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, three Blackhawks prospects will face off in the QMJHL Seminfinals, as Nicolas Beaudin and the #2 Drummondville Voltigeurs battle the #3 Halifax Mooseheads. 

Halifax will feature 2018 NHL Draft pick Alexis Gravel in net and Jake Ryczek on the blue line. 

Despite coming into the playoffs as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Halifax has faced a difficult road to the semis. They survived Quebec in a seven-game first round series before sweeping Moncton in the second round. Drummondville took care of Gatineau and Sherbrooke in a pair of five-game series to book their spot in the semifinals. 

Beaudin is one of the most decorated Voltigeurs in team history and won QMJHL Second Star of the Week honors for his performance in the first round against Gatineau. Gravel will have his hands full looking to stop the QMJHL's highest scoring team, but the Mooseheads goalie ranked among the QMJHL's top five in save percentage during the regular season. 

Drummondville and Halifax begin their series with a pair of games this weekend, beginning tonight at 6:30 p.m. and continuing with Game 2 on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m from Drummondville. 

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BLOG: Gustafsson & Kruger commit to Sweden for Worlds

The tournament takes place May 10-26 in Slovakia

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson and forward Marcus Kruger (pending UFA) have both committed to representing Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, which takes place May 10-26 in Slovakia.

The pair of Blackhawks were named to Sweden's preliminary roster on Friday morning.

This will be Gustafsson's third World Championships. He went in 2015-16 and then again last year. The blueliner is coming off a breakout 2018-19 for Chicago in which he scored 17 goals and tallied 60 points in 79 games.

Kruger has represented Sweden three times before at Worlds. The last time was 2016-17. 

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FEATURE: Mitchell returns to college, searching for another level

Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell is returning to the University of Denver for his junior season as he looks to continue his development before his NHL leap

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

While it's every young hockey player's dream to make it to the National Hockey League, Ian Mitchell isn't rushing it.

The 20-year-old defenseman believes returning for his junior year at the University of Denver is the best thing for his development as he eyes long-term success in the pros.

"I guess I just didn't necessarily feel I was ready physically and mentally to make the step to pro hockey quite yet. Those were the things that led to my decision," Mitchell said.

The Blackhawks organization and their prospect, who they selected in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft, kept the dialogue going throughout the decision making process with Mitchell eventually settling on a third collegiate campaign.

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BLOG: DeBrincat joins Kane on Team USA's roster

Kane and DeBrincat are listed among Team USA's first 17 players for Worlds

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat has joined Patrick Kane on Team USA's preliminary roster for the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The tournament takes place May 10-26 in Slovakia.

Tweet from @usahockey: #TeamUSA names its first 17 players to the 2019 U.S. Mens National Team. #IIHFWorlds 🇺Details https://t.co/j5QZHC8ZMT pic.twitter.com/cUfL4MIyTM

Kane was announced as the captain for the team earlier this week.

DeBrincat, 21, is coming off a sophomore campaign with the Blackhawks in which he tallied 41 goals and 76 total points in 82 games.

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THREE STARS: Entwistle, Beaudin advance in CHL Playoffs

A weekly look at how Blackhawks prospects are performing at their various levels

by Austin Siegel / blackhawks.com

Every Thursday throughout the 2018-19 season and playoffs, Blackhawks.com will highlight prospects who have stood out for their junior, college or professional team in the previous week's action.

Here are this week's Three Stars.

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BLOG: Crawford nominated for King Clancy Trophy

The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards in Las Vegas in June

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

The NHL released their list of nominees for the 2018-19 King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is Chicago's representative on that list of nominees.

The group was selected by their respective NHL clubs. The winner will be chosen by a committee of senior NHL executives, including Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

The three finalists will be announced Tuesday, April 23 and the winner will be revealed at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 19. The winner will receive a $40,000 donation from the NHL Foundation to benefit a charity or charities of the player's choice. The two runner-ups will receive a $5,000 donation.

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FEATURE: Red Deer duo took next step in Rockford

Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson impressed in Rockford after starring in the WHL

by Austin Siegel / blackhawks.com

Spotting an Erie Otters sweater at the United Center became something like birdwatching this season.

Fans of the minor league team that once featured Blackhawks teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome began showing up in the crowd, behind the glass and in line for concessions.

Thanks to Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson, a Red Deer Rebels sweater might be your next United Center double take.

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BLOG: Pair of prospects named to Finland's roster

Henri Jokiharju and Kevin Lankinen are on Finland's preliminary roster for the 2019 IIHF World Championships

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

Blackhawks prospects Henri Jokiharju and Kevin Lankinen will join Finland's national team ahead of the 2019 IIHF World Championships in May.

Tweet from @leijonat: Tervetuloa Henri, Juho & Kevin! Kolme uutta nime mukana ensi viikon MM-leirityksess: https://t.co/p8k6WYqnOS #Leijonat @KLankinen @henrijokiharju @NHLBlackhawks @FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/vq9OQX5sbr

Both will have their opportunity to make the squad and participate in the tournament, which runs May 10-26 in Kosice and Bratislava, Slovakia.

Jokiharju has represented his home country on multiple stages, including the 2019 World Juniors earlier this year in which the defenseman and the Finns won gold.

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: "Two or three years from now he's going to look back on this when he's a steady player in the NHL and he's going to say 'that was probably the best thing for me.'"#HawksProspects https://t.co/acs8u2DGj0

Lankinen, a goalie, has also represented Finland before at the junior level in various stints.

They'll potentially join Patrick Kane at the tournament, who was named captain of Team USA on Monday. More Blackhawks are likely to officially commit to the tournament soon.

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