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Blackhawks Development Camp Recap

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Just days after the Chicago Blackhawks drafted 11 players in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, those athletes, along with other Blackhawks prospects taken in prior drafts, converged on Chicago’s training facility at Fifth Third Bank Arena for a week of workouts, instructional classes, and team bonding.

Instead of running the prospects through drills and practices, the Blackhawks opted for a more wholistic approach to Development Camp in 2023. Part of this approach involved exercises designed to strengthen the relationships between players.

On the first day of camp, the players took part in a cooking class at the Chopping Block in Chicago. The athletes learned healthy ways to prepare good-tasting foods as they get ready to rely on their own cooking abilities as professional players.

Day 2 of Development Camp featured a visit to Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game where the prospects met Cubs players and coaches, took batting practice, and were honored on the field together before the game.

2023 Blackhawks Development Camp - Interviews with Rolston, Luypen, Ludwinski, Greene

The players even ran through comedy routines, and the top acts were voted on. Per reports by players, Samuel Savoie, Frank Nazar, and Victor Stjernborg were among the funniest.

“It was good to see guys get out of the comfort zone, and some guys are actually really funny, so it was enjoyable,” recounted former second-round pick Colton Dach.

Blackhawks Head Coach Luke Richardson sees the value in developing players’ bodies and minds away from the ice. During camp, the group participated in some boxing lessons.

"I think being smart now, giving them some intangibles with a little bit of boxing lessons just to change things up and to have some fun [with other] events in the city to get to know the city and maybe feeling more comfortable," Richardson said. "If you're more comfortable off the ice, then you're just going to be more comfortable on the ice."

Former Blackhawk and Stanley Cup Champion Johnny Oduya led the players through a class on new breathing techniques on Tuesday. The exercises were designed to introduce the prospects to new breathing methods that can improve performance and overall health.

The prospects even engaged in a “spikeball” tournament on Wednesday. “Nick Lardis and Frank Nazar, they helped the boys win the championship today,” laughed former seventh-round pick Jalen Luypen.

GM Kyle Davidson discusses Development Camp with the Media | Chicago Blackhawks

Several of the camp participants were players that either have appeared in Rockford in the past or will likely join the IceHogs at some point this season. Here are some players to keep an eye on when training camp arrives in September:

Drew Commesso

After three seasons at Boston University, Commesso is ready to turn pro. The 6-foot-2 netminder posted a 24-8-0 record, 2.46 goals-against average, and .913 save percentage with the Terriers last season before he joined the IceHogs. Though he didn’t appear in an AHL game, Commesso still had a chance to work with Blackhawks Goaltending Development Coach Peter Aubry.

“For me right now, a lot of [the next steps] is off ice training,” said Commesso. “I’m going to get back on the ice as soon as I get home. I’ve really been ramping it up in every facet. This is my job now.”

Along with an impressive two-game appearance at the 2022 Olympics, Commesso represented Team USA at the IIHF World Championship in May. The 20-year-old is entering the first year of his three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. The goaltender was drafted 46th overall by the Blackhawks in 2020.

Nolan Allan

Allan, a defensively-minded defenseman, turned 20 in April and will be entering the first year of his NHL entry-level contract with the Blackhawks in 2023-24. He was originally selected by Chicago with the last pick in the first round during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Allan was reassigned to the IceHogs from junior hockey in May of 2022 but never appeared in a game.

The 6-foot-2 blueliner wore the captain’s “C” with the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League last season and posted 11 points (4G, 7A) in 16 games. After the first few weeks of the season, Allan was traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds where he tabbed 16 points (7G, 9A) in 41 games while helping Seattle capture a WHL championship. Allan played alongside fellow Blackhawks draft picks Colton Dach and Kevin Korchinski in Seattle. The defenseman also took home a gold medal with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Colton Dach

Dach played alongside Korchinski and Allan last season with Seattle in the WHL and captured a WHL championship. The 6-foot-4 forward battled injury for much of the campaign and only appeared in 25 regular-season games between Seattle and the Kelowna Rockets (where he was the captain prior to being traded) but averaged over a point per game with 12 goals and 15 assists. He also won gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship with Team Canada.

“For me, it’s getting faster, it’s one of the biggest things for myself,” said Dach. “The first three steps, my stride, the change of possession, and trying to play consistent hockey. I think that’s how you make to the NHL, playing consistent each night, and that’s what I want to do, I want to show these guys that I can play in the NHL.”

Colton, the brother of former Blackhawks third-overall pick Kirby Dach, was taken by Chicago in the second round of the 2021 draft. The 20-year-old will enter the first year of his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks this season. Similar to Allan, Dach was reassigned from the WHL to Rockford in May of 2022 but did not appear in a game.

Ethan del Mastro

Del Mastro, 20, is entering the first season of his three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks after being taken in the fourth round by Chicago back in 2021. The 6-foot-4 defenseman has improved his stock as a prospect in the two seasons following his draft. In 2022-23 with the Mississauga Steelheads and Sarnia Sting, del Mastro picked up 59 points (7G, 52A) from the blue line in just 55 Ontario Hockey League Games. He was named an OHL Second All-Star Team selection and helped Sarnia reach the OHL semifinals. In addition, del Mastro earned a gold medal with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship. After serving as his team’s number one option from the back end in the OHL, del Mastro played more of a defensive role when representing his country at world juniors.

Ryder Rolston

Rolston, 21, will definitely play professionally this season after signing a PTO with the IceHogs last spring after a season at Notre Dame. The forward spent the last few weeks of the season in Rockford but did not see any game action while rehabbing a shoulder injury. Rolston was taken in the fifth round of the 2020 draft by the Colorado Avalanche before his rights were traded to Chicago. With the Fighting Irish last season, Rolston registered 20 points (7G, 13A) in 27 games.

“[Camp] has been a little different now, knowing that I’m going to stay in the organization here and compete for a spot on the team,” said Rolston. “Going into it, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it’s been awesome.”

Jalen Luypen

Luypen made his pro debut in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs in the Division Semifinals against the Texas Stars. He appeared in three games and was noted for his tenacity on the puck. Last season with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL, Luypen accumulated 39 points (18G, 21A) in 38 games after recovering from a shoulder injury.

“It’s been fun,” said Luypen. “I think, being off ice, you get a better chance to meet the guys and build that closer bond and just have more conversations with guys I don’t think I would’ve had during [normal] camp time.”

The 21-year-old will be entering the second season of his three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks.