Dano was coming off playing nearly a full regular season between the AHL and the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he also played for Slovakia in the World Championship in May. He could have easily asked for some time off.
Instead, Dano opted to get back to work. After being recently traded to the Blackhawks, Dano wanted to get things rolling with his new team. He arrived to Chicago last week to begin his strength-training program and participated in the first day of the prospect camp at Johnny’s IceHouse West on Sunday. The camp runs through Friday.
Dano, a 20-year-old winger, just a month ago was watching intently as the Blackhawks and fellow Slovakian Marian Hossa played in the Stanley Cup finals. Now, Dano will have a chance to play alongside Hossa and compete for that same Stanley Cup.
“I was following because of Marian Hossa,” Dano said on Sunday. “He’s from the same city, so it was pretty cool watching the finals and cheering for him. ... [It’s] a great feeling for me to be a part of an organization that’s playing for a Cup every year. Every player wants to win the cup, and with this team there’s a bigger chance for me to raise the Cup above my head.”
Dano participated in the camp’s first practice session on Sunday and showed some of his offensive and defensive abilities that have the Blackhawks excited for his future. This past season he caught a lot of people’s eyes by producing eight goals and 13 assists in 35 NHL games as a rookie.
Dano is not only is from the same town as Hossa, but he also looks up to the NHL veteran and would like to become the same type of player.
“Every player is different, but I like to play a hard game and Marian Hossa plays kind of the style of game as me,” Dano said. “But he’s at a different level, so I’m trying to catch him with that. He’s a great player. He played so many years here, so there are a lot of things I can learn from him. Really excited to be here.”
Dano said Hossa phoned him after he was acquired by the Blackhawks and welcomed him to the organization. Dano said they’re supposed to meet and have lunch in Slovakia before the season begins.
Dano is expected to have a place in the Blackhawks’ lineup next season. He has played some center in the past, but he said he is more comfortable on the wing. He said he can play right or left wing.
One possibility for the Blackhawks would be placing Dano on the same line as fellow 20-year-old Teuvo Teravainen. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said earlier this summer he’d like to give Teravainen more of an opportunity at center.
Dano has some familiarity with Teravainen.
“He's a skill player and he's a good player,” Dano said. “He had a good playoffs and it will be fun to play with him. It's probably pretty much the same type of player as Alex Wennberg.”
For now, Dano isn’t worried about his future linemates. He is just seeking to improve. He’s confident in certain aspects of his game, but knows he can get better in others.
“I’m a two-way player with good hockey sense,” Dano said. “I can protect the puck in the corners and make those little plays. What else? Yeah, my first couple of steps could be more explosive and from the blue line to the neutral zone, try to get more speed.”