Olesz begins push for roster spot

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Rostislav Olesz is the one player on the training camp roster the team admittedly knows little about. General manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville want to find out where he fits in, and Olesz is aware of their curiosity.

“They just want to see me play because I haven’t played in a long time,” Olesz said after his first practice as a Blackhawk on Saturday.

Olesz is coming off a torn ACL in his right knee which kept him out of the second half of the season last year for the Florida Panthers. The Hawks acquired him when they rid themselves of Brian Campbell’s contract during the offseason.

He lined up next to Jonathan Toews and Andrew Brunette in the first team scrimmage on Saturday playing in a competitive situation for the first time since being injured. He came away thoroughly impressed.

“This is totally different hockey,” Olesz said. “It’s amazing to play with all these skilled players. I mean more than three guys can handle the puck here. [Marian] Hossa, Toews, [Patrick] Kane, [Duncan] Keith, [Brent] Seabrook, you can go name by name. It’s different.”

With just one practice under his belt, it’s too early for anyone to make a determination on Olesz, but there is some skill there. Still, he hasn’t lived up to his lofty draft status after being selected seventh overall in the 2004 draft. He has 57 goals in 349 career games in the NHL, never having scored more than 14 in any one season.

“They don’t know me,” Olesz said. “I’m going to just play my best hockey and then I will see where I can fit.”

That could be on any of the four lines, maybe in Rockford or somewhere else. With three years left on his contract and a salary cap hit of $3.1 million per year, the Hawks can’t hide him somewhere without it costing them, if he doesn’t prove himself. With a veteran laden team and some highly touted prospects pushing for roster spots, Olesz knows he has to deliver.

“I know there is competition,” he said. “There always is but this is a good team. I just want to show them what I can do.”