College star Drew LeBlanc not expecting to play in any games with Blackhawks
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org April 15, 2013 10:33PM
Updated: May 17, 2013 6:38AM
Drew LeBlanc’s eyes widened as he stepped in front of the media at the United Center before Monday’s game.
“Whoa,” he said. “Couple more cameras than they have in St. Cloud.”
The NHL experience began for LeBlanc on Monday, and it will continue for as long as the Blackhawks keep playing. But whether the recently signed Hobey Baker Award winner out of St. Cloud State will do anything other than watch and practice remains to be seen.
LeBlanc, for one, doesn’t expect to see any game action. Not any time soon, at least.
“No, I’m just here to work hard, have fun, take it all in, learn what it’s like to be a professional and get as many pointers as possible,” he said.
The Hawks signed Le-Blanc to a one-year deal Friday, on the same night he won the Hobey Baker as college hockey’s top player. Since he was signed after the trade deadline, he couldn’t be sent to the Hawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, and he’s ineligible for the Stanley Cup playoffs. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, giving the Hawks a chance to keep him if they like what they see during on-ice workouts.
“It’s a good chance for him to get some practice time and get acclimated to our team game and the NHL pace,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see. No promises when he’ll play, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to get him in there.”
LeBlanc was outright bashful when asked to describe his game but said he has been told he’s a “playmaker/passer.” Quenneville was more effusive, based on what he has been told and what he saw on the ice Monday.
“He’s got some skill,” Quenneville said, “got a real nice set of hands, good feel offensively. Watching him out here skating today, you could see him on the offensive side of things being pretty handy, pretty nifty. Accomplished quite a lot winning the Hobey Baker Award, so I imagine he’s got some nice tools.”
LeBlanc said he chose the Hawks because of their reputation for developing young players. Of course, at 23, LeBlanc is older than Brandon Saad (20), Andrew Shaw (21), Nick Leddy (22) and Marcus Kruger (22). And he’s only a year younger than Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
“This is a professional organization from the top down,” LeBlanc said. “They have a good reputation for developing young players, and I hope to be one of those guys.”