Blackhawks take part in rookie tournament

Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad were among the participants the last time the Chicago Blackhawks were involved in a rookie tournament.

That was September of 2011. Shaw earned a spot on the Blackhawks’ NHL roster that season, and Saad also made his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season and then became a permanent fixture in the NHL last season.

After missing out on a rookie tournament last season because of the NHL lockout, the Blackhawks have teamed up with the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs again to create a round-robin tournament in London, Ontario beginning Thursday. The Blackhawks will play the Maple Leafs at 6 p.m. CST on Thursday, the Senators at 1 p.m. on Saturday and the Penguins at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

There’s no guarantee any of the Blackhawks on this year’s rookie tournament roster will appear in the NHL this season, but it will be another opportunity to impress with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville expected to be in attendance.

Four players on the Blackhawks’ rookie tournament roster who could have a shot at seeing NHL time this season are forwards Phillip Danault, Drew LeBlanc, Mark McNeil and Garret Ross. Danault, McNeil and Ross finished up their junior careers last season, and LeBlanc joined the Blackhawks late in the season after completing his college career. All four are expected to be at the Blackhawks training camp.

“I think first of all it gives the young players right off the start a chance to show management and scouts what they’ve been working on all summer, how hard they’ve worked,” Blackhawks hockey administration director and minor league affiliations general manager Mark Bernard said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a chance to play against players at their level. It’s not like putting them against Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, and they’re going to be intimidated.

“I think it’s also useful because they don’t know each other. For Phillip Danault, Garret Ross, Mark McNeil, it’s time to together to form chemistry and create relationships on and off the ice. Whether their seasons start in Rockford or Chicago, they can get off to a good start. All of these guys have been quality players at the junior level or college level, and we want them to get back to that as professionals.”

Defenseman Dylan Olsen, forwards Terry Broadhurst, Alex Broadhurst, Byron Froese and David Gilbert and goaltender Mac Carruth are also on the rookie tournament roster and are expected to begin the season with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.

The 21-year-old Carruth could have made his professional debut last season, but the Blackhawks thought he would best benefit from another season in juniors. He went 30-7-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL.

Carruth will now get a chance along with Kent Simpson and Antti Raanta to be the IceHogs starting goaltender this season.

“Last year, [Carruth] was eligible to play professional hockey, but it was just a matter of we didn’t have enough nets for the goaltenders we had,” Bernard said. “Mac handled everything from that conversation to the end of the year with the upmost professionalism. He understood the situation. He wasn’t a young kid who was nodding his head and agreeing with you. He went back to Portland as an older player on the team, leader on the team and led them all the way to the Memorial Cup. He didn’t put his head down and think he could be playing in the pro level because he had the ability.”