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RELEASE: King named Rockford's head coach

Derek King had previously served as the interim coach after Jeremy Colliton's promotion to the Blackhawks

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / Blackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have named Derek King head coach of the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. In addition, Anders Sörensen received a multi-year contract extension to remain an assistant coach for Rockford.

King, 52, replaced current Blackhawks Head Coach Jeremy Colliton as interim head coach of the IceHogs on Nov. 6, 2018. He led the team to a 29-28-3-4 record. King was originally named assistant coach of the IceHogs on July 7, 2016 and just completed his third season with the organization. Prior to joining the Blackhawks organization, he worked as assistant and associate coach with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL from 2009-15. With the Marlies, he helped the team win one Western Conference Championship (2012) and three North Division Championships (2012, 2013, 2014).

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THREE STARS: Gravel, Ryczek closing in on championship series

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: Kane named Ted Lindsay finalist

The award is presented annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL, as voted on by the NHLPA

by Chris Wescott / Blackhawks.com

Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was named one of three finalists for the 2018-19 Ted Lindsay Award by the NHL Players' Association on Thursday morning. The Ted Lindsay Award is presented annually to the "most outstanding player in the NHL" as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.

In 81 games this season, Kane led the Blackhawks in scoring with 44 goals and a career-high 110 points. He finished the season third in NHL scoring and in points per game (1.36). 

Kane won the Ted Lindsay Award in 2015-16, becoming the only Blackhawks player to have received the honor.

The 2018-19 Ted Lindsay recipient will be announced on June 19, during the NHL Awards.

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RELEASE: Blackhawks announce coaching staff change

Assistant Coach Don Granato and the Blackhawks have mutually agreed to part ways

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / Blackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today the team and Don Granato have mutually agreed to part ways and he will not return as an assistant coach next season.

"We appreciate Don's contributions to the Blackhawks organization while on the staff," said Blackhawks Head Coach Jeremy Colliton. "We wish him well in the future as he pursues other opportunities."

Granato joined the Blackhawks coaching staff on June 15, 2017 and spent two seasons behind the bench with the team.

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FEATURE: Krys gained AHL experience with IceHogs

The Boston University defenseman made his professional debut with Rockford this season

by Austin Siegel / blackhawks.com

Chad Krys wasn't looking for a leisure-filled spring break when touched down in Northern Illinois last month, just days after his NCAA career ended with a tough loss at TD Garden in the Hockey East championship game. 

The 21-year-old traveled to Rockford for an education. 

"It's obviously weird at first coming to a team 66 games into the season," Krys said. "When you're 20 years-old and kind of the young guy on the team, it's a little bit weird. But the guys have been really good, guys like [Andrew Campbell] and just really everybody has been awesome with me. From the staff to all the players, just helping me out and not picking on me too much."

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FEATURE: High-scoring Gustafsson led improved 2018-19 blue line

Erik Gustafsson and Connor Murphy took steps forward on an improved Chicago defense

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

There are plenty of familiar faces among the NHL's Top 50 highest-scoring defensemen this season. You can find regulars like Kris Letang, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson up and down the list. 

A five-time NHL All-Star and Stanley Cup champ like Drew Doughty? Of course. Minnesota stalwart Ryan Suter? You bet. 

But this season, they were all outscored by a third-year Blackhawk playing his first full NHL season. 

RELATED: Sikura made strides with his defensive game

Erik Gustafsson's breakout 2018-19 campaign was part of a resurgent year for the Chicago blue line, where Stanley Cup winners like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were joined by talented players with something to prove.

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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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