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Combine notebook: Prospects describe Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane as ‘idols’

For these 18-year-olds, the Blackhawks stars are childhood TV legends.

Patrick Kane and fellow Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews are inspirations for many prospective NHL forwards.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — On and on they went, all weekend long, naming Blackhawks legends. And not Stan Mikita or Bobby Hull, either.

‘‘I bring the same qualities as [Jonathan] Toews, and I compete and play a 200-foot game,’’ said Alex Turcotte, a native of north suburban Island Lake, who is projected to be a top-five pick in the NHL Draft this month. ‘‘I want to be there and be similar to him one day.’’

Said Trevor Zegras, a native of New York and another likely top-10 pick: ‘‘Growing up, watching a lot of hockey, my favorite player was Patrick Kane, and his passes are way better than mine. I’m just trying to do what I can to emulate a little bit of him.’’

Toews and Kane were popular names in Buffalo, even though neither has participated in the NHL Combine for more than a decade. For these 18-year-old prospects, who came of age when the Hawks’ dynasty began in 2010, Toews and Kane are more like larger-than-life role models than soon-to-be teammates — though they soon will be both for at least one combine attendee.

‘‘[Toews is] definitely an idol of mine, watching the Hawks all the way up,’’ Turcotte said. ‘‘I’d be lucky [to be] just half as good as him.’’

But Toews and Kane weren’t the only Hawks stars receiving shout-outs. Defenseman Marshall Warren, another New York native and a projected middle-round pick, mentioned defenseman Duncan Keith as his favorite player.

NHL draft prospects completed numerous physical testing drills in Buffalo on Saturday.

Latest on Podkolzin

Russian wing Vasili Podkolzin, once a popular Hawks pick in mock drafts but now thought to be trending toward the middle of the first round, stressed he fully intends to come to North America once his Kontinental Hockey League contract expires in two years.

‘‘Of course, he understands why they’re scared [of the contract situation] — there is that ‘Russian factor’ — but he’s actually excited to develop in these next two years and be ready for the NHL,’’ a translator said, interpreting Podkolzin’s response to a question.

Podkolzin had a tumultuous 2018-19 season, playing at three levels in the SKA St. Petersburg organization and on two Russian national junior teams, but has shown rough-around-the-edges promise. He’s a tenacious net-driver with good puckhandling ability and playmaking skill.

Even a two-year wait will deter some teams from picking him, but Hawks director of scouting Mark Kelley downplayed that factor in the equation.

‘‘Realistically, when you talk about all these players, none of them are going to be really impact players for the next two seasons, so it becomes a little shortsighted if you’re saying that,’’ Kelley said. ‘‘Their real impact is going to be three, four years down the road.’’