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Hawks prospect Ryan Haggerty excited about change after unexpected trade

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Ryan Haggerty couldn’t have been happier as a New York Rangers prospect.

New York City is only 40 miles outside of his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. He had plenty of suitors coming out of college as a free agent, and he chose the Rangers. He had a strong training camp with them last season and had a solid first professional season for their AHL affiliate. He also received positive feedback from the organization at the end of the season. He was looking forward to the future as a Ranger.

For all those reasons, Haggerty would never have guessed he would be dealt this offseason. But on June 27, Haggerty was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for goaltender Antti Raanta. Once the shock wore off, Haggerty began looking at the positives.

“It is a business, and pieces move around a lot,” the 22-year-old Haggerty said at the Traverse City rookie tournament on Saturday. “It’s a good transition and a good place to be, obviously, with how many Cups Chicago has won and the dynasty they’ve had the last six, seven years. It’s a new spot, new chance, new organization, so it’s very exciting.”

Chicago may be a new location for Haggerty, but his objective is still the same -- he wants to be in the NHL. And his ticket there is likely as a goal-scorer.

The Blackhawks were among the teams who showed interest in Haggerty because of his goal-scoring ability when he decided to leave Rensselaer Polytech Institute after his junior year in 2014. He had been among the nation’s top goal-scorers as a junior with 28 goals in 35 games.

“He’s got a great shot,” Blackhawks senior director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said. “He’s got great instincts in the offensive zone. He gets open. He sees the ice offensively and gets in the right spot and he has a great shot.”

Haggerty, a right-handed shot, displayed those skills during the Blackhawks’ first two games in the Traverse City tournament. He scored a power-play goal off a one-timer from the left circle against the Dallas Stars on Friday and scored nearly the same exact way against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. He was the only Blackhawks player to have multiple goals after the first two games.

Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent, who is coaching the Blackhawks rookie team, was impressed by Haggerty.

“He can shoot the puck,” Dent said. “He has a heavy, quick release. He knows how to find the scoring areas. He’s strong. He’s strong on the puck as well. He’s got a year of pro under his belt. He’s got some good detail to his game.”

Haggerty spent all of last season in the AHL and had 15 goals and 18 assists in 76 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack. It was a season of learning for him. Overall, he thought he had a positive first year.

“Last year being a 21-year-old in the A, having an older team and making it to where we did [in the playoffs], I think I contributed pretty decently at times,” Haggerty said. “Obviously there were lows and highs in the season.”

Haggerty’s focus this offseason was playing with more pace and protecting the puck better. He wants to immediately fit into the Blackhawks' game.

“I definitely tried to change, tried to play at a more higher pace in the summer to be adjusted quicker to Chicago’s style, not of run-and-gun, but a fast-moving-attack team, like the way I want to be,” Haggerty said. “It’s all repetitions. Drill it into your head you want to play fast. You want to get up ice. You want to get shots. You want to get puck possession, working at not getting the puck knocked away because everything is puck possession in Chicago.”

Haggerty is hopeful to make his NHL debut this season. He doesn't know if that's realistic to start this upcoming season, but he wants to make a strong impression when training camp opens later this week.

“I think I’m ready,” he said. “Obviously I had a real good camp with another organization. Coming into this camp, I have a lot of confidence going in. It’s believing in yourself. It’s taking it day by day, just going out playing your best hockey and enjoying it.”