It’s the Blackhawks’ moms trip and I’m absolutely here for all of the content. The moms/invited guests were at practice on Wednesday before everyone headed to the airport, many of them in sweatshirts that read “Blackhawks Mom” or “Hockey Mom.” I can only imaging them joking about watching their sons practice in an arena as nice as Fifth Third in the middle of the day and getting paid to do it after years of them skating whenever/wherever they could get ice time as kids while their parents kept the caffeine industry in business, all while they chased their dream of being in the NHL.
Tyler Johnson told me this is the first time he’s been on a mom’s trip with any team he’s ever been on, so his mom’s super excited to finally be able to do something like this after watching dad get treated for years. It’s also pretty cool for Johnson that the first game is back in Tampa where his career began.
The Minnesota Wild made two trades yesterday that impact their blue line — and the Blackhawks’ game tonight. Their first trade sent defenseman Calen Addison to San Jose for forward Adam Raska and a fifth-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft. Two hours later, the wild announced they had moved a seventh-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft to Tampa for defenseman Zach Bogosian, meaning the veteran won’t be available for the Bolts when they host the Blackhawks tonight. As Frank Seravalli tweeted, the deal saves Minnesota around $25,000 in cap space and moves them up the draft board (albeit in different drafts). Bogosian is more physical; Addison is a power play guy. Minnesota needs help everywhere right now, so maybe a minor shake-up like this will help?
When the Blackhawks hired Luke Richardson as their head coach, both he and general manager Kyle Davidson noted the path forward for the Hawks was modeling the team in the likeness of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche: fast and skilled. As the Hawks head to Tampa for the first of two meetings on consecutive Thursdays, here’s part of what Richardson said about this being a good barometer of where the rebuild is at next to one of the “model” franchises they’re following:
“They’re winners and they have the killer instinct at the right times and that’s something we have to learn,” Richardson said Wednesday. “You can’t take the foot off the pedal if we have a goal lead or a two-goal lead or four-goal lead on them. They sometimes can play loose, too, but they have the ability to kind fo turn that back on. I don’t think we’re there yet, so we have to make sure we’re on from the start of the game to the finish and play aggressive against them. You have to respect them going into the game but once you’re playing against them, you don’t give them respect by giving them time, space and room, because they’re very dangerous that way.”
Yesterday I shared some thoughts from Scott Wheeler of The Athletic that he included in his first run at 2024 NHL Draft prospect rankings this week. A couple weeks back I tabbed a few prospects in NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings that I was intrigued by, so I doubled back and shared Wheeler’s comments on those players. I’ll continue to update my thoughts on the 2024 NHL Draft as we roll through this season because the Blackhawks have two picks in the first round (theirs, Tampa’s) and three in the second round.
One of the players I didn’t specifically discuss in the piece yesterday was the prohibitive favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick next summer, Boston University center Macklin Celebrini. Here’s some of what Wheeler said about him (even if the odds the Blackhawks land the top spot again are even more infinitely unlikely than they were to land Connor Bedard last summer):
He’s a natural center. He plays with confidence and presence that is rare in a player his age, consistently looking to attack and dictate with the puck. He’s also an intelligent off-puck player who understands timing, routes and how to get open and make himself available without the puck in his hands. He’s a plus-level skater. He’s a hardworking player defensively and into battles and races for pucks. He’s got dynamic puck skill that allows him to break down opponents and coverage at speed. He’s a tactile shooter and finisher who can get pucks off in a variety of ways, from a variety of stances, and without needing to tunnel vision for it (plus he has a hard one-timer). He’s consistent in approach. He sees and executes through seams with a lot of crispness. He is sturdy and thick for his age, and absorbs and plays through bumps extremely effectively, staying over pucks and extending sequences through a strong lower half.
Alex Vlasic talked to the media for a moment before running for the airport. I share this because, as someone who’s had a few concussions (playing football in high school and college) recovering fully from one is never the same. There isn’t a “normal” recovery timeframe. And Vlasic is still working his way back to being a full-go version of himself since the hit. That isn’t to say he’s still dealing with the concussion, but there are some physical aspects that still need to come back together. A good reminder as we watch him play that this young man is playing like a 4-year veteran every night on one of the Blackhawks’ top two pairs even while he’s in his first full NHL season and dealing with learning some about his off-ice physical needs as a player.
Elliotte Friedman dropped a written version of “32 Thoughts” today and it’s loaded with great stuff, beginning with an emotional story about the Travelling Jagrs (the guys who wear all of Jaromir Jagr’s NHL jerseys and travel around to watch him play). That alone is worth reading today’s column. But here are a few more notable nuggets:
I do believe some teams considering coaching changes would want to ask the NHL about Joel Quenneville’s availability, but the new lawsuit regarding the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks (reported by The Chicago Tribune’s Phillip Thompson) puts things on pause.
The Senators “will bring back Shane Pinto when his suspension ends, and are not trying to trade him.”
Sam Cosentino asked Auston Matthews if he changed anything with his stick. The NHL’s leading goal scorer dropped a slight clue. “Pretty much the same, maybe a little bit of a construction change.” Jennifer Botterill queried what are the factors contributing to the 13 goals. “Moving my feet, playing give and go with my teammates…Honestly, simplifying more than anything.”
Charlie McAvoy’s suspension is staying at four games because he was a mean person who did something stupid and dangerous. Good.
Finally, MLB’s GM Meetings got off to a crappy start — literally. So the league cancelled the remainder of the meetings because of the health issue.