Listen to the Chicago Blackhawks centers of the future and there’s a similar theme. Work hard and play fast. Rinse. Repeat.
“Yeah, I think the same,” Bedard said when asked about Moore’s admiration of his work ethic. “He’s a really hard worker and he’s really competitive. That’s something that, he wasn’t happy when he lost in spikeball or something like that. No, but it was great getting to know him. He’s a special player. But I think for me, his off-ice habits and his work ethic was great to see.”
But the work ethic and speed goes beyond the first-round picks of General Manager Kyle Davidson’s drafts. The theme has trickled into the later rounds, be it Ryan Greene, Paul Ludwinski, or Aidan Thompson.
“I think that building from the ground up you need to have good character to start with and we look for speed because one of things we are taught by the Blackhawks is to play fast,” Ludwinski said. “So, you have to think the game fast and obviously be faster. I think I contribute to both of those. I’ll look to build and hopefully make the Blackhawks in the coming years.”
The arsenal of forwards, especially down the middle are prioritized with speed. But there are more benefits as many of those centers can be interchangeable up front, maximizing the Blackhawks attack down the road.
Moore, Nazar Could Be Swiss Army Knives on the Ice
When asked about preference when it comes to where he is on the ice, Moore claimed there’s advantages to playing both wing and center.
“I really don’t care where I play next year. I’ve had experience playing on the wing and at center, so I have a good amount of experience playing all over the ice and in different situations,” Moore said. “For me, next year is just once again helping the team win and wherever I’ll be best fit to help the team win. Whether that’s at wing or center, I don’t really have a preference.”
Nazar didn’t speak directly to it but his goals are to certainly improve his size and impact on the ice.
“Get bigger, faster, stronger and just more confident on the ice and be able to play my game and get a full season in,” Nazar said. “Hopefully. that’d be nice for me, just to get the games and the puck touches. That’s super big.”
Nazar on the wing is certainly plausible, if not understandable, as his speed is one of his biggest weapons on the ice. In line with what Davidson is building around, Nazar, according to a piece from Detroit Hockey Now with Team USA’s Director of Hockey Operations John Vanbiesbrouck, is the prototypical forward for Chicago’s system.
“He didn’t come in with a lot of acclaim but he’s a guy who proves he’s gifted beyond any player,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “He has a lot of compete in him. Wins a lot of races. He gets a lot of breakaways.”
The inherent advantage of a player like Nazar on the wing is allowing him more offensive opportunity. Then again, as any coach will tell you, a strong centerman can shift to wing with little problem. So with a slew of speedy centers at their disposal, the Blackhawks have a number of intriguing options to work with.
Speed, Skill and the System Mesh Well for Blackhawks
With the expectation that the Blackhawks three first-round centers will be together at some point, it maximizes the potential on both sides of the ice. In the system that head coach Luke Richardson runs, the box-plus-one can be utilized to accentuate the speed and skill the Blackhawks are drafting and hoping to have on the ice together.
Be it as a center driving the breakout after forcing a turnover, or as a wing on the rush waiting for the outlet pass, options are aplenty for the speedy and skilled forwards the Blackhawks are developing. It goes beyond those picked in the higher rounds.
“It’s cool to see them pick all these players. Aidan Thompson and Dom[inic James] are fast players as well,” Nazar said. “So those guys, they have a lot of speed. Basically every guy they’ve picked, they’re adding to the list of players to build up this team. I think they have a good group.”
Perhaps Davidson sums it up best, knowing the system they have with the prospects that will be inserted into it should equal the success they’re building for. It even applies to a prospect who is likelier to start on the wing in Lukas Reichel. His words, though, could be attributed to any of the aforementioned prospects, sans Bedard who slots in as Chicago’s top line center.
“We’re likely going to give some of the young players a shot down the middle and a good, true opportunity to find center as their position,” Davidson said. “We’ll try that out in training camp and early on in the season. But if things don’t work out, or if there’s a better opportunity on the wing for some of those players, then there are some veterans that can slot over. They’re versatile to jump down the middle.”
That versatility, along with the speed, skill, and hockey sense, could set the Blackhawks up for years to come.