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Delia making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Rookie is 3-1-3 with .932 save percentage since being recalled from AHL

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Collin Delia welcomes the pressure.

The Chicago Blackhawks goalie has a laid-back approach to life and his job, even though the latter comes with plenty of demands.

"People see it as stressful, but I have a hard time seeing things as stressful when they're self-imposed," Delia said. "It's the profession you pick and everything that goes with it and you have to accept it: talking to fans, talking to media, pressure in big games, when you make mistakes, when you win. But if you embrace that role, you can really do something with it."

Delia has done a lot with his opportunity since the Blackhawks recalled him from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Dec. 17, one day after goalie Corey Crawford sustained a concussion in a 6-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. He's 3-1-3 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .932 save percentage and might start again when Chicago (16-22-9) plays the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Monday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, NBCSCH, NHL.TV).

Video: VGK@CHI: Delia stones Pirri with strong pad save

Delia, who signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 28, 2017, after spending three years at Merrimack College, has split his time in Chicago with veteran Cam Ward and has faced an average of 39.7 shots in seven games. 

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton knows Delia well, having coached him last season and the start of this one when both were with Rockford before each made his way to Chicago earlier this season (Colliton was hired to replace Joel Quenneville on Nov. 6). Delia was 17-7-4 with a 2.72 GAA and .900 save percentage last season in Rockford, and 7-3-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .924 save percentage in the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs, where Rockford advanced to the Western Conference Final.

Colliton said he's not surprised by Delia's smooth transition to the NHL.

"When he gets in he's super calm, it never looks like there's too much for him, and he's given us a chance to win every night he's been in," Colliton said. "Last year, he did a good job preparing himself for this. He got a taste [of the NHL], got a game or two. He came in here, I feel, with belief that he could do the job, and he's shown that."

Video: NSH@CHI: Delia kicks away Johansen's attempt

Delia won his NHL debut, a 6-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets on March 29, 2018. However, the night belonged to Scott Foster, a 36-year-old Chicago accountant and emergency goalie, who made seven saves after Delia sustained a lower-body injury with 14 minutes remaining in the third period.

Former Merrimack College coach Mark Dennehy, who coached Delia from 2014-17, said, "that's so [Delia]. First start, first win, and he won't be remembered for it. It'll be a 36-year-old."

But Dennehy, now coach with Binghamton of the AHL, said Delia's potential was evident at Merrimack, where he was 21-24-10 (ties) with a 2.48 GAA and .912 save percentage.

"I had been a part of the staff that recruited [Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan] Quick to UMass," Dennehy said. "[Quick is] incredibly fast down low and really tough to beat. And [Delia] has a lot of those similar qualities. He reminded me a little of [Quick]. They're different people and I think Quick's a future Hall of Famer. I'm not saying that's what Collin will be, but he's already proven a lot of people wrong."

Rockford goaltending coach Peter Aubry said Delia has always had good mobility but has really improved in tracking the puck.

"Because he was such a great skater for such a long time, he was used to doing moves and getting to spots. But he was able to hone his precision on where the puck is," Aubry said. "He's making better decisions on where to start for a play and where to end up. He's just really playing hard, puck tracking, reading the play. He's detailed in his approaches."

Delia is just as detailed with personal interests. One hobby is leather crafting. He made a leather duffel bag while attending Blackhawks training camp in September and was working on a mid-century leather couch at his home in Rockford when the Blackhawks recalled him in December. It's become a bit of a side business by word of mouth. Delia doesn't have a website for it, but he does have a name: Portiere, Italian for goaltender.

He also gets much of his inspiration from people outside of hockey, be it chef Gordon Ramsay or fashion designer Tom Ford.

"If you want to be elite, you have to look at people who are elite in their fields. You can't just look at people in hockey," Delia said. "The level of detail and the degree of certainty these people have, doing this and that. I'm attracted to that mindset. They're at the upper echelon of what they do, and I feel I'm on the way, too."

Delia has already done well with the chance the Blackhawks have given him. Those around him expect he'll only get better.

"Can he be a No. 1? I'm not scared to say it, yeah, he can," Aubry said. "He does a great job staying in the moment, but we've talked about looking big picture. It's important to project further than where they currently are, and we should do that with him. I'm not prepared to cap it and like Jeremy said, am I surprised he's having success? No, not at all."

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