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updated: 7/7/2011 7:28 PM

Hawks' prospects trying to make an impression

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  • Mark McNeill, here putting on a jersey after being drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round last month, is looking to make a good impression at prospects camp this weekend.

      Mark McNeill, here putting on a jersey after being drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round last month, is looking to make a good impression at prospects camp this weekend.
    Associated Press

 
 

A year ago before the start of prospects camp, nobody could have expected any of those kids invited to attend to have any impact in the coming Blackhawks season.

But Nick Leddy opened the eyes of general manager Stan Bowman and the coaching staff to the point where he left college after one year, came to training camp and won a job for opening night at Colorado.

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Leddy eventually needed to go back to the American Hockey League for more seasoning, but by the middle of the year he was a regular on the Hawks' defense as a 19-year-old.

There may or may not be another Leddy in the mix at this year's camp that starts Friday, but anything is possible. And that's why, for prospects such as No. 1 draft picks Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Kevin Hayes and Dylan Olsen, this an opportunity to make the kind of impression that sticks with management.

"My mindset right now is I'm here to try to make the Chicago Blackhawks," McNeill said Thursday. "At the end of the day it's the coaches and staff's decision. I just have to come here and make a good first impression and work my hardest."

McNeill and Danault were drafted in the first round last week and come to camp amid lofty expectations.

The Hawks see the 6-foot-1, 211-pound McNeill as their second-line center of the future behind Jonathan Toews. He had 32 goals, 81 points and 53 penalty minutes in 70 games at Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League.

"I'm a two-way power forward and can play a pretty versatile game," McNeill said. "I can chip in defensively as well as hold my own offensively. Some areas I want to work on are my first few steps and my explosiveness out of the game to help me down the road."

Danault is a 6-foot, 181-pound left wing who had 21 goals and 67 points for Victoriaville in the Quebec League and was captain of his team.

Kevin Hayes, the Hawks' first-round pick in 2010, is headed back to Boston College for his sophomore year. The Hawks also see the 6-3, 205-pound Hayes as a center down the road.

"I played center the whole year," Hayes said. "Center is were I'm hoping to be."

Defenseman Dylan Olsen was drafted first in 2009 and appeared in 42 games at Rockford last season after leaving the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The 6-3, 220-pound Olsen could be someone the Hawks recall from Rockford during the course of the 2011-12 season if injuries should arise.

Bowman likes to hear prospects say their goal is to make the big roster in September.

"McNeill is 210 pounds right now, and when you talk to him, he's determined to make the Blackhawks next year, which is a good attitude to have," Bowman told Blackhawks.com. "I don't know that it matters that it's their first exposure to us; we're looking at them with a fresh set of eyes.

"They're younger, but they may not be that far behind. There are some interesting guys there, and I'd like to see how they compare in their first go-round here, once they get the nerves out of the way.

"We'll see how it goes," Bowman said. "The idea is to get these kids a bigger taste of Blackhawks hockey, so that when they turn pro, it won't be the first time that they hear the things that are important to Joel (Quenneville).

"They need to become familiar with the Blackhawks' philosophy, and this will give them a better sense of what we expect of them later on."

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