CHICAGO -- Joakim Nordstrom was realistic about his odds of making the Chicago Blackhawks’ roster out of training camp.
The 21-year-old understood there were a couple of roster spots open and that a number of established prospects were likely going to land them. What Nordstrom promised himself was he wasn’t going to leave camp with any regrets whether or not he made the team.
“I might have been a long shot, but I worked hard all this summer and came here prepared,” Nordstrom said Friday. “My mindset was to work as hard as I could and give myself the chance.”
With just a few days of camp remaining, Nordstrom’s confident he has lived up to his own promise. And in doing so, it appears as if he might have defied the odds and earned one of the remaining roster spots.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville must make three roster cuts prior to Tuesday’s season opener, and he said Friday that Nordstrom was in a good spot compared to the other players on the bubble.
“The way he’s played, he’s enhanced his position, but I think it’s close in all the other positions,” Quenneville said after Friday’s practice.
Nordstrom separated himself from the other prospects by proving to be a suitable penalty kill partner for Marcus Kruger. Michael Frolik and Kruger were key to the Blackhawks’ penalty kill success last season and Quenneville was in search of someone to replace Frolik, who is now with the Winnipeg Jets.
“I think we were looking for the guy maybe more so for that role,” Quenneville said. “That [Frolik] niche that they had, him and [Kruger] really stabilized a need for us. If we can get that guy right out of the gate, that would be ideal for us. I think [Nordstrom’s] been pretty efficient in that role so far. I think it’s helped him along this camp.”
Nordstrom had played some penalty kill for the Swedish junior national team and didn’t feel out of sorts when given that opportunity by Quenneville. Kruger, who is also from Sweden, has also assisted Nordstrom.
“I think that’s one of my biggest strengths,” Nordstrom said of the penalty kill. “I look at myself as a hockey player. That’s one spot that’s open. I think it makes sense that I’m looking to take that spot.
“[Kruger’s] been helping me a lot. Obviously it’s a new language. Some of the words I’m still trying to figure out. The new system and all that kind of stuff he’s been helping me out. He’s been great for me.”
As happy as Nordstrom is to make it this far in camp, he isn’t about to relax until the final cuts are made. The Blackhawks will play one final preseason game Saturday before the final roster is established.
Nordstrom is hopeful he’ll make the team, but he’s prepared to head back to the Rockford IceHogs and keep pushing for his dream.
“My dream ever since I found out about the NHL when I was small and skating, I always wanted to play here,” Nordstrom said. “So I’m not going to give up that dream until I stop playing. I’ll just work harder.”