When the first pile of pucks is tossed on to the ice at Johnny’s IceHouse West on Sept. 23, it might look more like Blackhawks prospect camp than Blackhawks training camp. As many as 10 of the team’s top players won’t be there. Joel Quenneville likely won’t even be present. Stan Bowman might not be around, either.
Pool play at the World Cup of Hockey wraps up on Sept. 22. And the best-of-three final will end on either Sept. 29 or Oct. 1. That will leave Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and a whole bunch of young guys and role players, with assistant coaches Kevin Dineen and Mike Kitchen running things when training camp opens. By the time the World Cup ends, the Hawks already will have played five of their six preseason games.
“It’ll definitely have a different vibe to it,” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “But it’ll be fun. There will probably be a lot of younger guys. It might make it even more competitive, because you’re up against the people you’re competing with, head to head, more than you might be in another camp. I’m sure guys will bring their best effort, regardless. But when you’re up against other young guys fighting for spots, it’s going to bring out those competitive juices.”
There are no surprises on the Hawks camp roster, no familiar veterans on tryouts. In all, 37 forwards, 18 defensemen and six goalies have been invited to camp. When the 10 World Cup participants show up will depend on how well their teams do. Barring a catastrophic Canadian collapse in Toronto, Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford and Quenneville (an assistant coach for Mike Babcock) will be arriving late. Swedes Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger and American Patrick Kane also hope to spend the full two weeks in Toronto.
With the start of the season pushed back to Oct. 12 (five days later than last season’s opener), Quenneville isn’t too concerned about the unusual camp situation, even though only one team (Tampa Bay) has more World Cup participants than the Hawks.
“Every team has the same situation,” Quenneville said. “It’s going to be an experience across the league. It shouldn’t change how we approach our camp. As the season starts, there’ll be excitement for everybody, like it’s always been.”
For the many prospects hoping to earn roster spots out of camp, it’s a mixed bag. They’ll get a bigger spotlight and perhaps more reps in practice and more action in preseason games, but Quenneville won’t be around to see most of it.
“Everyone just wants to showcase their ability, and show how they can play the game,” said winger Tyler Motte, who turned pro last spring after scoring 32 goals in 38 games at Michigan. “It’ll be a great opportunity for all of us.”