Blackhawks throw Yale product John Hayden into forward mix

The Blackhawks’ already-crowded forward situation just got even more interesting.

John Hayden, fresh off his senior season at Yale, signed a two-year contract that runs through next season and will join the Hawks on Monday. The 22-year-old will get a chance to play and, if he proves worthy, will be eligible for the playoffs, too.

Hayden, a third-round pick in the 2013 draft, was eighth in the nation with 21 goals in 33 games as a senior at Yale. In his four seasons with the Bulldogs, he had 50 goals and 41 assists in 127 games. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he brings a physical element, too.

‘‘We’ve seen him a lot in prospect camps, development camps,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s a hard-working type of guy, one of those guys along the wall, in front of the net, has some physicality to his game, greasiness at the net. Looking forward to seeing how he handles it up here and how he fits in. He gives us some size and aggressiveness.’’

John Hayden was a third-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2013. (Getty Images)

Because of his age, Hayden’s entry-level contract only could be for two years. The Hawks are taking a risk by burning one of them this late in the season, but it likely was a compromise they had to make to prevent Hayden from pursuing free agency in the offseason, as former first-round pick Kevin Hayes did two summers ago.

‘‘He can play for us in the playoffs,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He’s a candidate to play, and we’ll see.’’

Round number

Winger Patrick Kane reached 30 goals for the second consecutive season and for the third time in his career with his first-period goal.

‘‘I don’t think you ever want to put a number in your mind, but it’s nice to reach those milestones, whether it’s 20 or 30,’’ Kane said. ‘‘After that, you keep trying to get as high as you can. Play the right way, keep creating scoring chances and hopefully by the end of the year the numbers are there.’’

Darling close

Quenneville said backup goalie Scott Darling (upper-body injury) is close to returning and will join the Hawks’ on their three-game swing through Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The team sent goalie Jeff Glass back to Rockford.

Quenneville said Darling is a little ahead of the initial three-week timetable, which had him coming back late next week.

Hanzal sits

Martin Hanzal, the Wild’s big trade-deadline acquisition, didn’t play because of an illness. But if the Wild and Hawks end up facing each other in the second round of the playoffs, he’ll play a big role.

The teams that have given the Hawks the most trouble in the postseason are deep down the middle, and adding Hanzal to Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal and Erik Haula makes the Wild awfully tough at center.

‘‘They have some big centers,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘They’re good in the faceoff circle, and their centers can play in all situations. So they have some depth in the middle and have depth in their lineup, four lines that can skate and make plays.’’

The Hawks had some interest in Hanzal but weren’t willing to pay the price the Wild did, including a first-round pick this year, a second-rounder in 2018 and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2019.

Roster report

Tomas Jurco was a healthy scratch for the first time since the Hawks acquired him. Dennis Rasmussen was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game. Michal Rozsival and Michal Kempny also were scratches with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya returning to the lineup.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com


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