TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Blackhawks routed the Minnesota Wild 6-1 to secure seventh place at the 2019 Traverse City Prospect Tournament on Tuesday.
The big story was Blackhawks prospects Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Philipp Kurashev and Mikael Hakkarainen leaving the game with injuries, but the good news is all four players are expected to be fine and should be ready when training camp opens on Friday.
Here are three takeaways and some observations from the win:
1. Blackhawks finish on positive note
The Blackhawks went into Tuesday's game knowing full well that they were playing in the seventh-place game and not much was at stake. Then you couple that with the fact that four prospects went down with injuries, including Boqvist and Dach, before the second period even ended and it would've been easy to pack it in.
Instead, it served as an opportunity for the other prospects to get more ice time and show what they're made of. The Blackhawks rolled with nine forwards and five defensemen the rest of the way and held the fort down to close out the tournament on a positive note.
"The announcer announces that it's the seventh-place championship team game but it was good to see those guys, how they reacted," Rockford IceHogs coach Derek King said. "They stayed with it. It was nice to see them get rewarded. ... It felt like a minor hockey game with the three lines and four D.
"Nah, it was good. It happens. Team gets down, gets a little physical, guys getting a little bumped up. Nothing major. It was a good opportunity for the other guys to get some extra ice time and I thought they handled it really well."
2. Spreading the wealth
While the Blackhawks didn't finish where they wanted to as a team, there were a lot of individual standouts throughout the week. Different players stood out in each game, but there was also some consistency in their performances.
Four players finished with multi-point efforts on Tuesday, including MacKenzie Entwistle (one goal, one assist), free-agent invite Sean Josling (two assists), Tim Soderlund (one goal, one assist) and Michal Teply (one goal, one assist). Riley McKay, Dylan McLaughlin and Dach also scored goals.
"I just said to the guys: We're really happy with the way they progressed throughout the week," Blackhawks VP of hockey operations/team affiliates Mark Bernard said. "It's tough, you don't have a lot of time to work on special teams and you're being asked to go out there and kill a penalty and be on a power play and you don't even know the name of your left winger. It's a lot to be asked of these guys, but I thought they got better as the week went along and we were really happy with the play of most of our players. They really stepped up.
"I think it's an exciting time to be a Blackhawks fan. We have a lot of great prospects in our system and it's going to be fun to watch them over the next few years develop."
3. Alexis Gravel turns in strong showing
The Blackhawks have to be encouraged by what they saw out of Gravel in each of the two games he started in. In the opener against Detroit, he gave up only one even-strength goal and was a big reason why the Blackhawks hung on to beat the Red Wings 5-4 in overtime.
On Tuesday, Gravel stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964. He did this while the team played half the game with only nine forwards and five defensemen. He was great this week.
"He stood on his head," King said. "He was great. It could have been a lot different but he was really good today for us. ... He's just got some confidence. He's just poised in the net. There's no panic. There were a couple shots definitely screened where you think it's going in and he was just square to the puck and it hits him and rebound comes and he swipes it away. It was good for him, it was good confidence for him too coming into camp."
- King is really going to like having Reese Johnson for a full season in Rockford. He's a terrific faceoff guy, kills penalties, is one of the first ones to stand up for his teammates and can contribute on offense. He's been on the first power play unit and penalty kill unit, and was the team's primary faceoff specialist. He was also tabbed as an alternate captain for the tournament.
- Nicolas Beaudin hasn't been talked about much during this tournament and it's because he hasn't been noticeable. But in a good way. He's a pretty sound defender and doesn't make many mistakes. He's a solid puck-moving defenseman, but isn't flashy. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the pro level.