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Future Blackhawks at 2024 Development Camp

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Development Camp wrapped up for the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, July 5 after dozens of prospects descended on Fifth Third Arena in Chicago for a week of competition, growth, and fun.

Camp was conducted primarily off the ice for the second straight season with a greater emphasis on team building than on hockey mechanics. The dry land work allowed players to get to know other prospects in the Blackhawks' pool, compete against their future teammates in non-hockey activities, and exhibit the characteristics that will lead to healthy comradery.

"There's four different teams," explained 2022 13th overall pick Frank Nazar with a grin. "Every day there are different points on the line. We've got this capture the flag thing going on right now. It's pretty fun trying to steal each other's flags."

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Frank Nazar (right) shakes hands with Nick Lardis (left) during a workout.

The game Nazar referred to was one of many that the athletes partook in throughout the week. 'Capture the Flag' ran throughout the week and challenged prospects to find ways to both steal and protect tennis balls (flags) that were assigned to them.

Development Camp isn't all fun and games- the 'campers' were run through workouts each day along with stickhandling drills and other exercises that the players can take with them and replicate on their own over the summer. There are also classroom sessions with workshops centered around different aspects of being a pro, such as managing the mental side of the game. Cooking and other life skills are also taught in order to empower the prospects to develop healthy habits.

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Nazar was selected 13th overall in 2022 and played in his first three NHL games last season. He scored his first NHL goal in his NHL debut.

For 10 of the prospects, 2024 marked the third year of Development Camp with the Blackhawks. Chicago General Manager Kyle Davidson selected 11 players in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, making up his first wave of new talent since taking the job. The only member of the 2022 class that wasn't present at 2024 Development Camp was Kevin Korchinski, who played 76 NHL games last season and is no longer a 'prospect'. All of the players from the 2022 draft class, including Korchinski, were initially brought along by older draft picks throughout previous development camps, and now get to return the favor.

"Guys like Alex Vlasic, Landon Slaggert, Drew Commesso, Ryder Rolston, those guys were all above me in the drafts, and when I came in they made it very easy to transition," said Nazar. "It helped a lot with my confidence and being myself around the rink."

The four names that Nazar dropped all have something in common with him: all four played collegiately in the NCAA before turning pro. Nazar spent the last two seasons at the University of Michigan before signing his entry-level contract with Chicago on Apr. 13. The skilled forward is one of only a handful of Dev Camp attendees who have appeared in a professional game after he played in three with the Hawks last spring. Nazar will be entering his rookie season in 2024-25, but at Dev Camp he is one of the old hands.

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Samuel Savoie (left) and Gavin Hayes (right) take a moment to recover after a workout. Both will be turning pro in 2024-25.

2024's Development Camp provided the 2022 class a chance to pay it forward and welcome the newest wave of Blackhawks prospects, just as their predecessors had done for them.

"Our draft class- we know everyone," smiled 2022 third-round pick Gavin Hayes. "The new guys coming in, you just try to make them welcome and not too scared of everything."

"The first time I came here, it's a bit stressful," admitted 2022 third-rounder Samuel Savoie. "You don't know the guys, you don't know anyone. So just from that experience, [we try] to help the young guys go out to eat and have supper with us at night."

Leadership was certainly on the minds of the older players, but so was the future. Many of the 2022 draft picks will be making the leap to professional hockey, and with that leap comes an acknowledgement of professional organizations' competitive natures.

"Just sharing those bonds, those laughs, it builds a lot of chemistry for the future," added 2022 second-round pick Paul Ludwinski. "The competitive aspect of it too, you know, we're not just here to have fun. We're here to get better and make the person next to [us] better."

Ludwinski and other prospects know that they will be competing with each other for a limited number of opportunities with the big club this season. The Blackhawks signed eight players at the start of free agency on July 1, five of them being forwards. The new blood at the NHL level will push some of the younger players in the pipeline down to Rockford, allowing them more of a runway with which to mature and develop before taking their place in the NHL.

In July at Development Camp, that competition is light-hearted and meant to strengthen the ties between future teammates in Rockford and in Chicago.