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FEATURE: Lankinen flashes NHL potential at World Championship

From Rockford to celebrating with 50,000 fans in Helsinki, Kevin Lankinen looks back on a breakout summer

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Between the pipes in the AHL and ECHL this season, Kevin Lankinen faced down everyone from the Idaho Steelheads to the Manitoba Moose.

Last month, the degree of difficulty increased ever so slightly against Alexander Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov.

The Blackhawks prospect turned in 32 saves in 1-0 win against a Russian squad loaded with NHL talent in the semifinals of the 2019 Hockey World Championship, before backstopping the Finns to a gold medal against Canada. 

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FEATURE: Doneghey shines light on National Team Development Program

The USNTDP could be where the Blackhawks find their next superstar. Just ask the expert.

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

In the stands at the NHL Combine, Blackhawks Head USA Scout Mike Doneghey is ready for an NHL Draft that could be defined by the USNTDP.

Hockey buffs and fans of overly-ambitious acronyms might recognize the USNTDP. However, the program that could make up almost half of this year's NHL lottery picks isn't exactly as well known as Alabama football.  

But there is nobody in the Blackhawks organization who knows the program better than Doneghey.

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BLOG: Cozens ready for stressful Draft night

The Yukon native knows hearing his name called on Draft night will be a big relief

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Thousands of kids dream of becoming NHL players, and barring a sudden interest in accounting or marine biology between now and the NHL Draft, Dylan Cozens will soon realize that dream. 

But Cozens, a consensus top ten pick at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, has his sights set even higher. 

"I'm a two-way player who can play in all situations of the game, power play or penalty kill," Cozens said. "I can be out there when you need to hold the lead or when you need to regain the lead."

Video: Dylan Cozens on preparing for the Draft

That confidence and the numbers to back it up - Cozens posted an 84-point season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL in 2018-19 - are why scouts and hockey executives are so high on the Canadian center. 

That doesn't mean Draft night won't still be nerve-wracking for the top prospect.

"It's going to be stressful for sure, but lots of excitement," Cozens said. "We're all there waiting to hear our name called, and once it happens there's going to be lots of emotions and lots of excitement. It's going to be a big relief."
 

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BLOG: Dach would be thrilled to be a Blackhawk

The Canadian center should be available when the Blackhawks pick at #3 in Vancouver

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

With the Combine behind him, Kirby Dach knows the rest of the NHL Draft process is out of his control. But after a week of interviews and testing, the Saskatoon Blades forward was effusive in his praise of the Blackhawks organization. 

"It's their decision to choose who they want and who fits their organization," Dach said. "Obviously, if they end up picking me I would be thrilled to be a Blackhawk."

Chicago will have a tough decision to make if they choose to dip into the pool of talented offensive players with the third pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Dach will likely be on the board along with Dylan Cozens and skilled American skaters Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte. 

Video: Kirby Dach on the NHL Combine, Draft

Dach said he will spend the next few weeks in the gym ahead of Draft night at the end of June. 

"I've got a busy schedule ahead of me and then obviously going to Vancouver," he said. "You've just got to go there and relax and have fun. That's kind of when you can really step back and think about how far you've come."

 

 

 

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BLOG: Turcotte on health issues, meeting with Blackhawks

The top prospect met with the media after finishing up fitness testing at the Combine

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Alex Turcotte battled health issues with the USNTDP but talked about putting those medical concerns behind him at the 2019 NHL Combine. 

"I think [the Combine] is important to experience. I've never been through something like this," Turcotte said. "I'm really happy my health is at 100% and I was able to do this."

Video: One-on-one: Alex Turcotte

Turcotte struggled with lower body injuries with the USNTDP but skated on the program's second line when healthy, behind consensus top pick Jack Hughes. He is commited to the University of Wisconsin in the fall.

The Island Lake, IL native met with Blackhawks brass at the Combine, including Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman. 

"I thought all of my interviews went really well," Turcotte said. "[Scotty Bowman] talked to me a little bit, but was mostly just staring at me. It was fun, it was cool for sure."
 

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BLOG: Zegras talks Fortnite battles with Dylan Strome

Trevor Zegras spoke about his gaming experience with Dylan Strome at the NHL Combine

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Like many NHL prospects, Trevor Zegras grew up idolizing Jonathan Toews.

But the USNTDP center has a more personal relationship with Blackhawks center Dylan Strome, one forged in the crucible of Loot Lake and Pleasant Park. 

"I actually played Fortnite with Dylan Strome a couple times," Zegras said. "We were on the same team."

Whether or not the Blackhawks reunite the Zegras-Strome Fortnite squad on Draft night, Chicago has impressed Zegras during meetings with the top prospect throughout the Combine. 

Video: Trevor Zegras on US National Team

"I met with them a couple times. Obviously, the Chicago Blackhawks, an Original 6 team, really cool," Zegras said. "Jonathan Toews is a great leader. Watching all the Stanley Cup runs, you kind of admire what he did with that team. I love watching him play. "

 

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BLOG: Turcotte on growing up a Toews fan

An Island Lake, IL native, Alex Turcotte didn't need to look far to find a local role model

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

There's no test at the 2019 NHL Combine for "narrative" or "storybook rating," but at least for the Blackhawks, Alex Turcotte would measure off the charts.

13 years after Chicago snagged Jonathan Toews with the third pick at the 2006 NHL Draft in Vancouver, the Draft is back in British Columbia and the team is back with the third pick. Turcotte would certainly appreciate the history if he becomes the Blackhawks selection in 2019. 

"Growing up in Chicago, [Toews] is definitely an idol of mine," he said. "Watching the Hawks all the way up, I would be lucky to be half as good as him."

Video: One-on-one: Alex Turcotte

A roommate of Jack Hughes with the United States National Team Development Program, Turcotte is headed to the University of Wisconsin in the fall, where he will look to sharpen his game at the NCAA level. A two points-per-game player with the USNTDP, Turcotte could have a chance to play alongside his childhood hero if things go his way on Draft night.

"I bring the same qualities as him, the compete and the 200-foot game," Turcotte said. "I want to be there and be similar to him one day,"

 

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BLOG: Hughes names Kane as favorite NHL Player

The top prospect played alongside #88 at the World Championships in May

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

After months at the top of every mock draft and prospect ranking in the world, Jack Hughes has every reason to walk around the Combine like a kid who knows all the answers to the test. 

He didn't wait until Draft night to name his favorite NHL player, an answer that will come as no surprise to Blackhawks fans. 

"Kaner is unreal. I've probably watched all of his goals from the last ten years. That's a guy I love watching play, he's probably my favorite player," Hughes said of #88. "To kind of get to know him up close, be around him, see him play, practice with him, it's just a lot of fun to see that up close."

Video: Jack Hughes on Patrick Kane

Hughes and Kane were teammates at last month's World Championships in Slovakia, sharing the ice for Team USA throughout the tournament. It was a dream realized for Hughes.

"I thought I knew Patrick Kane the superstar, how good of a player he is, but I think I got to know Patrick Kane as a human," he said. "He's the ultimate USA ambassador. Helping young guys like me out, going to the World Championships in back-to-back years. He's just a hockey player and he loves it."
 

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FEATURE: VP of Amateur Scouting Kelley reflects on Combine

Mark Kelley has met with almost 90 players in Buffalo this week. Now the hard part begins.

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

If you ever find yourself driving behind Blackhawks Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley, you might want to consider switching lanes. 

"We're in a car, we take off the rear-view mirrors because we need to move forward," Kelley said, when it comes to second-guessing picks. "We want to get all the information, so when we do make that decision, we're very comfortable with it."

The very quality that might make him a terror on the Dan Ryan is why Kelley feels comfortable as the NHL Scouting Combine rolls into the weekend. With the draft three weeks away, Kelley and the Blackhawks could be sitting on the most interesting decision of all 31 teams in attendance. 

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BLOG: Dan Marr sees Byram rising up draft board

The NHL's Director of Central Scouting talked about Bowen Byram's emergence as a possiblity for the Blackhawks with the third pick

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

With the first two picks of the 2019 NHL Draft looking like an open secret, the Blackhawks have a world of options with the third pick.

One guy who has played his way into the conversation at #3 is Bowen Byram, according to NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr. The Vancouver Giants defenseman is coming off a 71-point season for the WHL powerhouse and a championship game appearance. 

Video: NHL Combine begins in Buffalo

"Dach and Cozens have always been in the mix but Bowen Byram, right from the U-18 camp in the summertime, he has this leadership skill about his game, he goes out and makes an impact," Marr said. "You start out with one player, maybe two, but they seperate themselves."

Byram entered the Combine as the 2nd-ranked North American skater in the NHL's Draft Prospect Rankings, behind consensus top pick Jack Hughes. 

 

 

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