Bowman pumps brakes a bit on Toews' return to Chicago Blackhawks
Will Jonathan Toews be able to return to the Blackhawks next season?
And if so, how effective will he be after dealing with a medical issue that left him drained and lethargic for long periods of time?
Those are questions we don't have answers to yet, but GM Stan Bowman was encouraged after sitting down with Toews and coach Jeremy Colliton in Chicago a few days ago.
"It was great to see him in person," Bowman said during a Zoom call with reporters Thursday. "It was good just to catch up on things and learn what he's been through. For me, that's the big thing is focus on Jonathan getting back to feeling great. When the time is right and he's able to join our team, we're certainly going to welcome him back."
Toews' only public comments have come in a two-minute video and a conversation with the Athletic's Mark Lazerus. In the video Toews said he was suffering from "chronic immune response syndrome." In Lazerus' story, Toews says he is likely a COVID "long-hauler."
No doctor has come out and publicly verified either diagnosis, and it is unclear whether Toews ever tested positive for COVID-19 or if he has received the vaccine.
Bowman said Toews has been "in contact regularly" with the Hawks' medical staff, but Bowman wouldn't get into the specifics of Toews' treatment.
Toews told Lazerus that he "absolutely" plans to be on the ice for Opening Night. Bowman, however, was more cautious.
"None of us have a crystal ball to know how he's going to feel in September," Bowman said. "I mean he's here training and he's working through getting back to where he can play for us. ...
"I don't think we have to put any pressure on him being ready for a certain date. We'll just see where it goes."
Kudos to Keith:
Stan Bowman concluded his 5½-minute opening statement with reporters Thursday by thanking Duncan Keith for his contributions to the Blackhawks over the years. Bowman traded Keith to the Oilers for defenseman Caleb Jones and a third-round pick after Keith's camp came to the Hawks and asked to be moved to a team that is closer to his son, Colton.
"It was hard in one sense because he's been a fixture on our team for so many years," Bowman said. "I don't know if he ever got the right amount of credit for the role he played on these great teams we had in the past, but I wanted to do right by Dunc and find him a place to allow him to be closer to Colton."
Feeling a draft:
The Blackhawks own the 11th overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday and will be televised on ESPN2. Rounds 2-7 are Saturday.
This is a strong draft for goalies at the top, with Sweden's Jesper Wallstedt and Alberta's Sebastian Cossa expected to go in the first round. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Wallstedt could be the first netminder to go in the top 10 since Carey Price was selected by Montreal at No. 5 overall in 2005. (Although Nashville did take Iaroslav Askarov at No. 11 last year).
While the Hawks selected Drew Commesso at No. 46 in 2020 and signed Swede Arvid Soderblom in May, they still might grab Wallstedt or the 6-6, 210-pound Cossa if possible.
"We're aware for what we have for depth in the organization," said Mark Kelley, the Hawks VP of amateur scouting. "But our job at the draft table is really to get the best available player -- the player we think can impact the Blackhawks the most. And if it's a goaltender, we go in that direction."
The top two picks are expected to be defenseman Owen Power and center Matthew Beniers. Power scored 23 goals in two seasons for the Chicago Steel then played in 26 games for Michigan.
Buffalo, Seattle, Anaheim, New Jersey and Columbus own the draft's first five picks.
NHL draftWhen: Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7)
TV: ESPN2 on Friday; NHL Network on Saturday
First 11 picks:1. Buffalo
4. New Jersey
7: San Jose
8. Los Angeles
Note: Arizona forfeitted 11th pick
Hawks' other picks:Round 2: Nos. 44, 62
Round 3: None
Round 4: Nos. 105, 108
Round 5: None
Round 6: No. 172
Round 7: Nos. 204, 216