CHICAGO, Ill. -- IceHogs defenseman Luc Snuggerud is drawing rave reviews through Blackhawks Prospect Camp, and in-turn, equally-high expectations as he enters his first full year of professional hockey.
"Luc was going to step into a leadership role and be the go-to guy on the back end, and he's really embraced that," Blackhawks Director of Player Development Mark Eaton said. “The pressure has been on him, but he has handled it extremely well and been able to take his game to another level."
Snuggerud credits the quick adjustment to a life spent in and around professional hockey. And despite skating in just 13 AHL games during his debut last season, he is actually equipped with hundreds of games of professional hockey experience between his father and uncle.
“Those two have been just huge in my development,” Snuggerud said of his uncle, Dave, who appeared in 265 NHL games, and father, Bo, who skated professionally in Europe. “They know the attitude and the approach you need to take when when you’re stepping into a professional environment, so they’ve been huge for me.”
With two full careers spanning across both coaching and playing positions in professional hockey, the tandem of Snuggerud’s father and uncle has combined to help mentor Luc through his own climb to the professional ranks. The former NHLer, Dave, coached his nephew’s summer hockey league team for six seasons. Bo then chipped in to offer guidance and advice on making the transition to pro hockey.
The leadership has rubbed off on Snuggerud as he caps a standout collegiate career and sets sights on the Blackhawks. The blueliner received an invite to Prospect Camp for the fourth straight year this summer, and is somewhat of the veteran on campus among a wave of new, incoming prospects.
“It’s about leading through your actions and being intense every single drill that we do, I think that goes a long way to the young guys coming in here,” Snuggerud said. “Because I remember being in their shoes four years ago and you’re looking up to those older guys. And now I’ve been here before and I know what to expect.”
The one big difference for Snuggerud this year -- No option of returning to collegiate hockey.
“It’s a big year to kind of take the next step knowing that I’m not going back to school this year,” Snuggerud said. “I’m here to stay now and I have to fight for a spot every day and bring my intensity to the rink every single day.”
Part of that process includes continuing to develop as a two-way player. Snuggerud said in today’s evolving NHL landscape he’s expected to be able to contribute at both ends of the ice. And since his original draft selection 2014, the defenseman has worked alongside current Blackhawks Director of Player Development and former NHL blueliner Eaton to hone his skill set.
“(Snuggerud’s) game is really suited to be that complete two-way defenseman who defends well and can make a good first pass and use his speed to join the rush in an offensive capacity," Eaton said.
Together, Eaton and Snuggerud have developed a strong relationship over the last few years. Eaton has offered unique insight with experience both as a former player and current executive, while Snuggerud has simply tried to maximize their interactions.
“We have that trust level between each other where you know everything he’s telling me I’m soaking it up and trying to incorporate it with my game,” Snuggerud said. “(The coaching staff) has a ton of knowledge about the game - you know Eaton played in the NHL and had a had a long career of Pittsburgh - so that’s that’s definitely a guy I’ve built a relationship with the past couple years.”
The results have been a smooth transition from the collegiate ranks to the professional level.
After capping his senior season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha with 31 points in 39 games last season, Snuggerud signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks and chipped in five points in 13 AHL contests for Rockford.
Snuggerud said he approached the transition with two key philosophies he’s learned between relationships with his uncle, father and the Blackhawks development staff:
“First being that you need to treat every single drill, no matter (the type of drill), you need to take it the same way and work hard and give it your all,” he said. “And then you have to play confident...expect to be good and expect to succeed.”
The rookie defenseman carries that approach into his first full professional season during the 2017-18 campaign. And as of prospect camp, the early verdict is Snuggerud may have already notched a spot atop the list of incoming Blackhawks prospects.
“Of all our prospects, he has such a pro mindset,” Eaton said. “He takes care of himself as well as anyone -- the off-ice routine, the nutrition -- and it's paid dividends for him on the ice."