The newest Chicago Blackhawks didn’t have much time to get to know the ground before hitting the ice for the opening of development camp Monday at Fifth Third Arena.
“They recruit you, you get a call and then they tell you they’re going to send you your flights the next day,” center Dominic James said. “I don’t know, it’s really impressive, though. I looked at my shirt, then I looked around and I had a smile on my face the whole time.”
Winger Gavin Hayes added: “Right when we got drafted, we had to come to Chicago. It was like 6:30 am, so I was on the go.”
As much as it’s been a whirlwind for the Hawks’ 11 draft picks and other prospects invited to the week-long camp, the players aren’t the only ones getting their heads spinning in the process. It started with general manager Kyle Davidson quickly trading his way into three first-round draft picks Thursday after starting the day without any.
“Obviously it was some really bold moves and some tough decisions,” Hawks CEO Danny Wirtz said.
That included trading fan favorite Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the No. 7 pick, used to draft defenseman Kevin Korchinski. Forward Frank Nazar, the 13th pick, came via the deal that sent Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens, and a trade of picks and salary-cap space with the Toronto Maple Leafs brought in a third first-round pick. , defenseman Sam Rinzel, at No. 25
DeBrincat said his immediate reaction was surprise.
“I guess you don’t really believe (trade rumors are) true until they become true,” DeBrincat said. “I knew (the rumors) had been around for a while and I thought there was a chance I could move. It doesn’t really hit you until it’s done.
“You think about all the good times I had in Chicago and how great they were for me. Definitely sad to leave but a new adventure for me here” in Ottawa.
Asked if he was surprised by the negotiations, particularly the ones involving DeBrincat, Wirtz said, “Not in the planning process.”
“The great thing about Kyle is that (he’s) very good and objective at laying out potential scenarios of where things could go, so there’s a lot of scenario work,” Wirtz said. “So when you actually get to where you are now at a decision point, it’s not a big surprise any more than when it becomes real when the trade call comes to the NHL and it’s, ‘Okay, we actually did it. .’ But the rationale and all that work and analysis of it is longer term.”
Still, it’s bittersweet parting ways with the likes of DeBrincat and Dach.
“Fortunately, Kyle can really separate that, but it’s hard to see a player go, especially one that is loved,” Wirtz said. “I balance it with this tremendous excitement especially for the three players who were drafted in the first round on Thursday, seeing them and getting to know them a little bit. And now, seeing them here in the development camp, that also excites you.
“So it helps balance it out because it’s a stinger, but like anything, you find some balance and a lot to get excited about.”
Here are four things we learned on the first day of camp.
Rinzel’s selection at No. 25 raised some eyebrows.
Some pundits had pointed to the Hawks as a contender for the defenseman, but in the second round, particularly since so much of his playing experience came in high school. The Hawks said they believed the Minnesota Wild and others were watching him.
Rinzel had an idea why he held draft boards.
“I was a little late, I grew on my strengths and I grew taller,” the 6-foot-4 Rinzel said. “But I was able to get out and I think people noticed me a little bit.”
Hawks management wanted to add some size, and five of the players in camp this week are at least 6-6.
Louis Crevier, a 6-8 defenseman drafted in 2020, finally found his match in center Riku Tohila, a seventh-round pick.
While they’re on the extreme end, the Hawks gained size with first-round picks Korchinski (6-2) and Rinzel (6-4).
Korchinski said the constant growth helped his skating “tremendously.”
“I just got taller and stronger and I was just able to balance my stride, get bigger strides, more explosive strides,” he said. “I guess you could say that I didn’t really have a big growth, but a rapid and gradual growth. He was 5-9 years old in bantam and was only growing an inch or two every year.”
As part of the trade package the Hawks received for DeBrincat, Korchinski will naturally be judged by fans on whether he was worth selecting to give away an All-Star.
Korchinski would like to beat Chicago, but he put the DeBrincat connection into perspective.
“It puts a little bit more pressure (on me), but I’m just worried about myself and getting better every day and winning every day,” he said. “I know what kind of hockey player I am, I’m confident in my abilities, so for me it’s just winning every day and getting to the level I want to be at.”
Nazar, acquired in the Dach deal, said having two other Hawks drafted in the first round creates an automatic support system.
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“It helps a little bit to know that they are going through the same process that I am and to know that they are going through the same problems,” he said. “It’s great, we’ve talked about it a little bit.”
Some of the Hawks’ picks punctuated their draft day by talking about their game and drawing comparisons to established players.
Savoie, a winger selected in the third round, said he sees a bit of Brad Marchand in himself.
“Marchand is a guy who likes to get under people’s skin. That’s what I do and I like it,” he said.
But Savoie knows there’s a fine line between confident and arrogant, especially for players starting out in their careers.
“Confident, you can still be humble,” he said. “It’s more about you being confident, you know you’re good, you’re here, obviously there are some good players around you and you know there are better players than you as well. Being confident (is necessary) just to have a little flow.
“I think conceited is thinking you’re better than everyone and you’re thinking you’re better than yourself.”