It was a pair of recent draft picks—2014 first-rounder Nick Schmaltz and 2013 third-rounder John Hayden—that led the way with impressive performances on the third day of Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Camp, as the pair contributed to both goals scored for the winning team on the first day of scrimmages. And along with some scoring, a bit of nastiness was also displayed throughout the scrimmage; Hayden scrapped with opposing players twice during the game.
Tuesday's camp session finally gave Blackhawks hopefuls a chance to showcase their development in a simulated game, which consisted of two 25-minute halves, giving each team a chance at both ends of the ice. Prospects were divided between the Red Team and the White teams.
Schmaltz took the opening faceoff for the Red Team, going head to head with 19-year-old Luke Johnson, a 2013 sixth-rounder, who represented the White Team. Schmaltz won the draw, and that was a continual trend as the Red Team took control of the first half, maintaining pressure in the offensive zone for the majority of the time and forcing goalie Ivan Nalimov, the Blackhawks’ only Russian prospect, to make a variety of impressive saves.
With 13 minutes remaining in the first half, it was Schmaltz once again winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, where he proceeded to drift behind the net and corralled the puck after a fortunate bounce. The Verona, Wis., native took a quick look before passing to Hayden, who was waiting in the slot. The rising Yale sophomore did not hesitate and put the puck in the back of the net, putting Red up 1-0.
Assessing the early chemistry he's built with linemates Hayden and 2013 sixth-rounder Anthony Louis, Schmaltz said, “When you get skill players together, you learn to play off of each other. When we're making plays, it makes it more fun to be out there. It's also good to know who you are playing with before camp starts. As skill players, [Louis] sees the play the same way I do, and Hayden is a big body who puts the puck in the net. It's a good combination.”
With about 8 minutes remaining in the half, the White Team committed a tripping penalty, sending Red to the power play, but as much as they dominated at even strength, nothing could be put together with the man advantage.
The first half ended 1-0 to the Red Team, and the second half started with fists flying right away.
Four minutes in, Hayden squared off against 20-year-old defenseman Sam Jardine after a scrap along the boards—Round 2 between the pair, following their fight at last year's camp.
“Both of us are competitive players,” Hayden said. “Last year we were in the front of the net battling. He wanted to fight, and I was willing to. This year, there was a hit along the boards, and we just started pushing around…He's a big, tough kid, and I have a lot of respect for him. These things just happen in competitive environments.”
The fight may have been the jump-start that the White Team needed, as they maintained control of the game for most of the second half.
With 6 and a half minutes gone, White won an offensive zone faceoff after the Red Team committed icing, and the puck found its way to the blue line, where free-agent defenseman Troy Stecher took a shot that deflected off teammate Beau Starrett and found its way to the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1.
White continued to sustain possession, despite giving Red another power-play opportunity, but with just 40 seconds left in the game, Hayden found himself with the puck in the offensive zone. His shot from the left boards sneaked into the goal, netting him his second goal of the scrimmage and giving Red a late lead.
It was a tale of twos for Hayden, who paired his second tally with a second fight: After play resumed, he got into a second fight, this time with defenseman Robin Press.
White proceeded to pull their goalie, but Red held strong to complete the 2-1 victory.
“I’m trying to be a leader this year," Hayden said. "I’ve been through [prospect camp once] and am trying to show the younger guys how things work. Obviously, every time you are here with the Chicago coaching staff, you want to soak up as much information as possible.”
With Head Coach Joel Quenneville, Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman and other Blackhawks hockey ops personnel overlooking the scrimmage from the stands, Hayden, Schmaltz and the rest of the prospects displayed their progress on the ice, continuing their development into future Blackhawks.
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