Blackhawks prospects McNeill, Danault ready to give it their best shots
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Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault have seen the quotes from Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman mentioning them along with Brandon Pirri as potential candidates to compete for a job at center during training camp.
While neither McNeill nor Danault are as far along as Pirri in terms of professional experience, they're still going to come to camp with the idea to make the team.
"Obviously, that will be my goal, but where I sit right now I'm here at this (prospects) camp and I'm going to try and prove myself and show them what I've got," McNeill said.
"Then take the rest of the summer to keep training, keep working hard and then come back in main camp and show it all again."
The way Danault sees it, trading Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik has opened two more spots on the roster for someone to grab.
"It opened some spots, and Stan said the young guys have got to prove (themselves) that they can make the team," Danault said.
"The guy who's ready, the AHL guy who's been playing three years here (Pirri) is probably more ready than us, but we've got to prove ourselves at the real camp and we'll see."
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Danault looks at it like he has a realistic chance to make the team.
"Yeah, always," he said. "When I was drafted two years ago, three years ago, I was looking for this already, so it's always been a dream for me and a goal, and I will achieve it."
Many scouts consider Danault ahead of McNeill at this stage of their careers.
Both were drafted in the first round in 2011 — McNeill 18th overall and Danault 26th overall. Both played for Team Canada in the 2013 World Junior Championships.
Danault was traded from Victoriaville to Moncton last season and finished the Quebec Major Junior League season with 85 points, 64 of them assists.
McNeill spent the entire season in the Western Hockey League at Prince Albert, where he had 25 goals and 67 points while serving as team captain.
McNeill and Danault each have played 12 games at Rockford over the past two seasons and are ready to start next year there if that's what happens.
"The thing is, when you're ready, you're ready," the 6-1, 214-pound McNeill said. "When the player's ready to play, he'll get his opportunity and all you've got to know is that when the opportunity's there you've got to make the most of it.
"I'm prepared for my first year of pro, absolutely, you know, graduating from junior and whether it's in Rockford or on the Hawks, I'm going to be working on my game trying to get better consistently."
Danault is ready to play in Rockford if it comes to that.
"Like I said, if I'm going to be playing in Rockford it's going to be good for me and it's going to take some maturity in my system in hockey and we'll see," Danault said.
"When you're 18, it's different. Now I'm more confident on the ice. That (shows) me that I'm maybe more ready than I was. We'll see. I'm excited about it."
Danault is considered the better defensive player. He won the Guy Carbonneau Award in 2011 in the QMJHL and in 2012 ranked second in that league with 830 faceoff wins.
"I know (Jonathan) Toews is one of the good (faceoff men) in the league, but if I can help the team like that, I will do it," Danault said.
Both Danault and McNeill admitted it's hard not to daydream about playing between Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa.
"I think Saader (Brandon Saad) was probably nervous to play with Toews and Hossa this year, but it's part of hockey," Danault said.
"Watching those guys in the playoffs and watching what they do out there was pretty special," McNeill said. "Those are guys I look up to and obviously watch a lot and to one day be on the same team or the same line or even in the same room with them, it's very special to think about that.
"You like to think you're hungry, but with a team like Chicago — a winning franchise, a team that's won two Cups in the last handful of years — you want to be a part of that winning culture and you want to be at that next level.
"You want to be a part of that team. That's something I'm working toward and something I want to achieve, absolutely."
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