The Blackhawks took the ice for the first of their seven exhibition games prior to the start of the 2019-20 regular season and skated to a 4-3 loss to the Capitals in overtime Monday night at Capital One Arena.
No player stood out for the Blackhawks more than Alex Nylander. The forward, who was acquired from the Sabres in exchange for Henri Jokiharju back in July, flashed his high-end offensive skills by making a terrific pass to an open Erik Gustafsson to help set up the Blackhawks first goal deflected in by Aleksi Saarela and later found the back of the net himself when he cruised through the slot and flipped home an Adam Boqvist one-timer.
"This is a really important training camp for me," Nylander, 21, said after the game. "Every game they always have a close eye on me so I have to perform and work hard because I obviously want a spot on this team."
Colliton said Nylander "made some plays. He definitely showed flashes where he was working away from the puck. He got above it a few times and caused turnovers and then when he does that he creates opportunities for himself in transition. He's got a great release. He went to the net on his goal. Good to see that."
Collin Delia started and played the entire game in goal for the Blackhawks, recording 25 saves. After blanking the Capitals in the first period, Delia allowed three goals in the first 8:38 of the second before righting the ship and not allowing a score until Tom Wilson's game-winner in overtime.
"(Delia) was good," Colliton said. "He made some saves for us for sure. They had some good chances during those stretches when we were a little bit loose (and) they generated some offense. Good performance by him."
With Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner firmly entrenched as the team's goaltenders, Delia, who appeared in 16 games with the Blackhawks last season, is ticketed for AHL Rockford where the 25-year-old will continue his quest to be an NHL regular.
"He's a competitive guy; he wants to play," Colliton said. "He wants to be a No. 1 goalie in the league (and) he wants to be a top goalie in the league. All he can control is his own performance so I would expect him to continue to improve. He's still young. We think very highly of him and his chance to be a top guy in the league down the road."
SPEAKING OF BOQVIST
The rookie defenseman clearly has a ways to go in his development as a defender, but there's no question he can create chances with the puck. In addition to his assist on Nylander's goal, the 19-year-old Boqvist added a highlight-reel goal to pull the Blackhawks into a 3-3 tie with the Capitals midway through the second period.
Boqvist corralled the puck while wheeling around the net and then rifled a shot from a sharp angle past Capitals goaltender Pheonix Copley.
"It's like you have to show every day that you want to be up there to play against Wilson and guys like that," he said. "You better be ready every shift and every second out there. I'm just going to keep doing that and take everything in from the guys on the team."
Boqvist finished with three shots, two takeaways and two blocks in 16:10 of ice time.
"He's a shooter (and) he's got great instincts," Colliton said. "He knows when he can jump in and create for himself. He zings it in there. Goaltenders aren't ready for it so he can score from everywhere it seems like. He made some plays and I thought he had some moments where he defended really well. That's going to be the thing for him learning how to be a pro and he definitely showed tonight he can do it.
"We want him to be a top player in the league," Colliton added. "We know he's dynamic offensively. If we can convince him that the defensive side of the puck is really important and not only is it good for the team but he's going to get more offense out of it, that's sort of the plan. Tonight was a good step for him."