CHICAGO -- Garret Ross entered his first day of Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp Monday with one goal -- prove he can play in the NHL next season.
Ross doesn’t have to look further than his friend and former teammate Brandon Saad for proof of that possibility.
Saad went from playing with the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League during the 2011-12 season to being a key member of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run in 2013. The 21-year-old Ross, who played for the Spirit last season, now hopes to duplicate Saad’s feat.
“I couldn’t be more happy for the kid,” Ross said of Saad at Johnny’s IceHouse West on Monday. “He accomplished every hockey players’ dream at the age of 20 -- win the Stanley Cup. Again, it’s good to see a good buddy like that rewarded. … Definitely some inspiration.
“It’s kind of out of my hands. The only thing I can do is come out and work hard and show the organization what I’m made of. If they see something in me that they want to start me up with the big program, then that will be great, obviously. But if not, it’s just another year to work at [my game.]”
The 6-foot, 182-pound Ross finished his juniors career on a high note last season. He scored 44 goals and dished out 46 assists in 61 games for the Spirit. He made his first appearance for the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League at the end of the season and played two games for the IceHogs.
Ross, who played left wing and center last season, is likely headed back to the IceHogs for his first complete season in the AHL, but he won’t accept that as truth until told so. His goal throughout the week-long prospect camp is to catch the eye of Blackhawks coaches and front office.
“That should be every players’ goal here,” Ross said. “You want to get the attention of the guys on top. You want to show them something they really like. You want to be that asset they want on their team.
“There’s obviously some areas I need to work on, but I feel like I’m taking the right steps towards it. Coming off a good year like [this past season,] it definitely gives me some confidence. I come out here with the same hard-working attitude, a little more relaxed and confident out there. It lets me play my game better.”
Raanta out: Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta was kept out of Monday’s practice for precautionary reasons due to a “minor injury,” according to the Blackhawks. Raanta was signed to a one-year contract in June after starring last season in Finland.
Hartman recovering from surgery: Blackhawks 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman said Monday he had shoulder surgery eight weeks ago and will not participate on the ice during the team’s prospect camp. He expects to be back skating in 2-3 weeks.