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Dano excited to be with Blackhawks, play with Hossa

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Marko Dano was surprised to be part of a blockbuster trade June 30 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

After he had eight goals and 21 points in 35 games last season to begin his NHL career, Dano, 20, figured he would play for the Blue Jackets for years and years to come.

Instead, Dano was traded to the Blackhawks with forwards Artem Anisimov, Jeremy Morin and Corey Tropp for forward Brandon Saad and two prospects. He is now tasked with helping the 2015 Stanley Cup champions defend their title.

"I didn't expect it, but now I'm glad to be here and excited to be part of the organization with the Blackhawks," Dano said at Blackhawks development camp Sunday. "The main reason [I'm here] is to get to know each other, and get to know the staff and coaches. That's why I'm here now. I was in Columbus for summer workouts, and then I came over."

Dano has started working with Chicago strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Goodman and will stick with that routine for at least the rest of this week. At some point, he'll fly back to Slovakia and meet up with Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, a player Dano idolized growing up and still emulates.

It will be a lot easier to do so now that Hossa is his teammate.

"I know he's a nice guy," said Dano, who has skated a couple of times with Hossa in Slovakia. "He [played] with my father back home when he was 18, so he started with my dad. It's pretty cool that I can play with him now on [the same] team. He's a great player. He's played so many years here, so there are a lot of things I can learn from him and also from the other guys."

Asked to describe his game, Dano used details that apply to Hossa.

"I'm a two-way player with good hockey sense," he said. "I can protect the puck in the corners and make those little plays in there. Every player is different, but I like to play a hard game and Marian Hossa plays kind of the [same] style of game as me, but he's a different level. I'm trying to catch him with that."

The Blackhawks are hoping Dano can close the gap quickly to help offset the loss of Saad, not to mention the departure of veteran left wing Patrick Sharp, who was traded Friday to the Dallas Stars. Veteran forwards Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg might also be on the trading block, so there likely will be some key roles up for grabs at training camp.

That includes the left-wing positions on each of the top two lines. Dano and a host of other talented forward prospects will be vying to fill them. Dano has also played center, but not since junior in Slovakia a few years ago.

He played right wing last season with the Blue Jackets but said playing left wing wouldn't be an issue.

"I feel more comfortable on the wing right now, because I was playing center like three years ago," Dano said. "It would be hard to get back into the center position."

Dano, selected by the Blue Jackets in the first round (No. 27) of the 2013 NHL Draft, played with Anisimov in Columbus and already has some chemistry with him. He also played with Alexander Wennberg, the Blue Jackets' highly touted young center.

Wennberg plays a game similar to that of Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen, who has experience at center and right wing. Teravainen, 20, was impressive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and could be a good match with Dano.

If so, that would be fine by Dano.

"I know he's a skill player and he's a good player," Dano said. "He had a good playoffs, and it would be fun to play with him. It's probably pretty much the same type of player as Alex Wennberg. I was playing with him back in Columbus, so it could be good chemistry."

Dano's stats with the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League weren't quite as good as his NHL numbers. Playing parts of the past two seasons for Springfield, he had 13 goals and 25 points in 49 games. Once he got to Columbus, Dano found the NHL's pace to be a better fit for his high-skill game.

"I learned a lot [in the NHL]," Dano said. "I got more consistent in my game and I [became] a better player. I got a little faster and I got a little better at the puck possession and protecting the puck. I was more comfortable playing in NHL."

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