Stan Bowman shares thoughts on Nylander, Kubalik, Perlini and Blackhawks’ defense
Entering the middle day of Blackhawks development camp Wednesday, Stan Bowman had already identified a list of four players standing out above the rest: Alex Nylander, Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell.
That’s not a particularly surprising foursome, but Bowman’s explicitness was intriguing, and the GM went on to shower praise especially on Nylander, the Hawks’ hotly debated recently acquired forward.
Nylander cancelled a planned vacation on short notice to attend camp, even though most of his teammates here have yet to make a single professional appearance, much less play three years in the AHL and NHL like he has. That’s an encouraging piece of counter-evidence to his reputation for motor and motivation issues.
“He’s a big kid, he’s almost 200 pounds, so his physical strength is there. Now it’s just trying to put it all together,” Bowman said. “He wants to learn. He’s been asking questions out there, talking to the coaches, listening to what they have to say and trying to incorporate it in the drills. I’ve found him to be coachable and I think he’s excited.”
Bowman indicated the Sabres’ placement of Nylander in the AHL as an 18-year-old may have hurt his development, as he had to focus all his training to match the muscle mass and physicality of his late-20s opponents rather than refining his offensive skills.
But the now 21-year-old has taken strides especially in the past year, the GM said, at improving his two-way game.
Perlini deal coming
Brendan Perlini is perhaps the final item left on Bowman’s summer agenda, having cleared up the cap space to sign the team’s one remaining restricted free agent with the Anisimov-Smith trade Tuesday.
“The negotiations are probably going to pick up as we go forward here,” Bowman said.
Kubalik here for a reason
Other than Nylander, Dominik Kubalik — a 23-year-old forward signed in spring after leading the Swiss league in scoring last season — and Boqvist are the two other camp attendees with legitimate chances to make the Hawks in training camp.
Kubalik is participating off-ice only this week, but even that is proving helpful.
“He’s around the city, he’s around the training facility, he can meet some people so that he’s more comfortable and he can just focus on hockey come September,” Bowman said.
Handedness no issue for defense
After adding two more lefties in Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan and shipping out righty Henri Jokiharju this offseason, the Hawks’ defensive corps are incredibly imbalanced in terms of handedness: among the eight players on one-way deals, only Connor Murphy and Brent Seabrook are righties.
Bowman said that storyline has been overplayed, though.
“In general, there’s more lefties than righties … across the league,” he said. “But your left-handed guys have to feel comfortable playing both sides.”
As an example, he cited Erik Gustafsson, who —despite being left-handed — has grown to prefer the right side after two years of primarily playing it in the Hawks’ organization.
The imbalance nonetheless can only stand to help right-handed Boqvist in his battle to make the Hawks. Although that remains somewhat unlikely, Bowman said he’s “probably leaning towards” having Boqvist turn pro and at least play in Rockford this year.