Northbrook’s Jaycob Megna savors a chance to prove himself with the Chicago Blackhawks: ‘Just thankful that someone wanted me’

NEW YORK — Spending part of his upbringing in Northbrook and playing youth hockey around the Chicago area, Jaycob Megna and his family were faithful Blackhawks fans back when few people were.

“We went (to games at the United Center) when it was an empty building,” he said, “and then when (Jonathan) Toews and (Patrick) Kane came, it started to fill up quite a bit.

“Then through the playoffs, Stanley Cup runs, there were a few parades while I was in high school, so it was pretty cool to experience. Now getting to play here is pretty crazy.”

On Wednesday, the Hawks claimed the 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman off waivers from the Seattle Kraken.

“I’m just really excited,” Megna said. “Excited to go somewhere new with a new opportunity. For it to be this team, pretty special growing up here in Chicago, playing for the hometown team.”

Lately the Hawks have been plugging holes amid a rash of injuries, relying heavily on call-ups from Rockford.

“He’s got some experience,” coach Luke Richardson said of Megna. “And another big, rangy (defenseman) — seems to be what we’re going for around here.”

Megna, 31, described himself as a stay-at-home, defensive defenseman.

“Just try to kill plays and get pucks up to forwards as quick as possible,” he said. “If I can limit the amount of time we spend in our zone, that’s better. A lot of what I do is obviously on the penalty kill as well.”

The Hawks scratched Louis Crevier to make room in the lineup for Megna in Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

“He’s making strides and this is great experience for him,” Richardson said of Crevier, “but at this point the other guy (Megna) has got a little bit more experience. And we just want to put him in here tonight against a really strong team.”

And Megna, who has four goals and 21 assists in 141 NHL games, has something to prove in his latest stop.

He was a seventh-round draft pick by the Anaheim Ducks in 2012 and made his debut with the Ducks against the Hawks on April 6, 2017. After three years splitting time between the Ducks and the AHL San Diego Gulls, he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights and spent the 2019-20 season assigned to the Chicago Wolves.

He played 92 games over the last two seasons with the San Jose Sharks, who traded him to the Kraken on Feb. 5. He languished in Seattle, appearing in only six games the rest of the season and starting this season with the AHL Coachella Valley Firebirds.

“It’s been frustrating, a little bit disappointing, but you know what, that’s the business sometimes,” Megna said. “You can only control what you can control. ... I know despite not playing much, I’m a better player now than when I got there.”

When the Kraken waived him, he wasn’t sure what was next.

“You never know, waivers is kind of a funny thing,” Megna said. “Sometimes guys go unclaimed you think should, guys get claimed you’re surprised by. It all just depends on teams’ needs at the time.

“Just thankful that someone wanted me and excited to be here.”

Megna scanned the visitors locker room at Madison Square Garden for familiar faces, and his eyes trained on Ryan Donato.

“I feel like I followed Donny around a little bit from San Jose to Seattle to here,” he said. “And then I played with Seth Jones, who obviously isn’t here right now, at the World Championships.”

The opportunity for regular playing time with the Hawks is not lost on Megna.

“You’ve got to earn everything and show that you can play at this level every night,” he said, “but just excited to have that opportunity hopefully here with Chicago that I didn’t really get with Seattle.”

Megna said he never envisioned playing in the NHL, much less for the Hawks, even though his older brother Jayson, 33, has played forward for five NHL teams during a nine-year career.

When asked how Jayson and other family members reacted to his joining the Hawks, Jaycob said: “Everyone is a little bit jealous because they don’t live in Chicago anymore. But my brother playing hockey, he would’ve loved the opportunity as well.

“He was really excited for me. My sister, my parents, everyone just super excited and excited to see me play again.”