CHICAGO -- Sam Jardine has attended five Chicago Blackhawks prospect camps since being drafted in 2011.
Each has been unique. He can still remember feeling a bit out of place as a 17-year-old defenseman in his first camp. He was still among the youngest prospects in his second year. During his third and fourth camps he dropped gloves with John Hayden, and was pleased to see they were made teammates this year.
Now in his fifth camp, Jardine feels like a veteran among all the prospects. His expectations are higher than ever, but he also feels the pressure. He’s about to enter his senior season at Ohio State, and it’s a make-or-break year for him in terms of whether the Blackhawks offer him an entry-level contract.
“It’s provided a lot of motivation for me in this camp,” said Jardine, who is 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds. “I’m playing for my Chicago Blackhawks life right now. Hopefully, they can see that desperation in my game. I’m just trying to impress and hopefully I still fit into their plans as they thought I might in 2011.”
Jardine has been proactive all summer long in showing the Blackhawks he’s driven to succeed. He took the recommendation of Blackhawks player development director Barry Smith and came to Chicago early to work with skating and skills development coach Kevin Delaney. He’s been training with Delaney for about a month and a half.
Jardine has noticed the work paying off on the ice, especially with his skating and quickness. He’s participated in three scrimmages so far this week and has been one of the most noticeable defensemen. He’s been solid defensively, made quick passes to forwards out of the defensive zone, been physical, gotten involved in the offensive play at times and scored a goal.
He's also been closely watching the Blackhawks’ recent moves, especially on defense. Jardine was one of four defensemen the Blackhawks drafted in 2011, and he’s the only one remaining in the organization. The Blackhawks took Adam Clendening in the second round, and he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks last season. They selected Mike Paliotta in the third round, and he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason. They also took Klas Dahlbeck in the third round, and he was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes last season. Jardine was drafted in the sixth round.
“I keep an eye on that,” Jardine said. “Those were friends of mine that we came up together. Obviously all the guys that have been traded have gone on to do successful things. A lot of them are playing in the NHL once they got traded. Some really good pieces came back for them. Credit to those guys for working hard and getting an opportunity somewhere else. I guess that’s just the way the game goes.”
Jardine is hopeful he can remain with the Blackhawks for many years to come.
“Obviously my time here is winding down,” Jardine said. “It’s been four years since I was drafted. I just really want to leave everything out on the ice, prove I belong here still. Decisions on how to build their team is up to them. I’m just trying to fill a role somewhere.”