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Leddy feeling right at home with Hawks

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Defenseman Nick Leddy had a dream story in the making.

The native of Eden Prairie, Minn., won his home state’s prestigious “Mr. Hockey” award during his senior year in high school, played at the University of Minnesota and was taken by the Minnesota Wild with the 16th pick of the 2009 draft.

But then something happened that initially shocked Leddy. The Wild traded his rights and veteran defenseman Kim Johnsson to the Blackhawks for defenseman Cam Barker on Feb. 12, 2010.

“I was a little shocked at the time because it came out of nowhere,” Leddy said. “I had no idea it was coming.”

Leddy played against the team that traded him away for the first time Tuesday at the United Center. He was a minus-1 and blocked three shots in 13:23 as the Hawks lost 4-2.

“It’s a big night,” Leddy said. “But at the same time, I never really played with them.’’

That’s true. Leddy was a freshman at Minnesota when he was traded. But now the 19-year-old rookie mans the blue line for the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Leddy wowed the Hawks’ brass during prospects camp last summer, then made the team out of training camp. After a stint with the Rockford IceHogs, Leddy was recalled Jan. 20.

Now he’s in Chicago for good.

“I like his head and the way he sees the game,” coach Joel Quenne-ville said. “But I really like that patience and his poise on the back end. He’s going to absorb more minutes and opportunities as we go along here. His future is bright.”

Johnsson played in only eight games with the Hawks last season and is out of the league after suffering a concussion. So the trade that brought Leddy to Chicago always will be a comparison between him and Barker.

The Hawks had lofty expectations for Barker. They selected him with the third overall pick — behind Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin — in the 2004 draft. Ovechkin and Malkin, of course, are superstars now.

It generally takes defensemen longer to develop, but the Hawks were willing to part with Barker. It looks like they made the right move.

Barker, 24, has yet to blossom into a top-tier defenseman. He entered the game with one goal, five points and a minus-10 rating in 39 games. Leddy, meanwhile, is five years younger and already in the NHL.

“[Barker] has a big shot,” Quenne-ville said. “He’s a threat on the power play. He’s a great passer. He’s still got a lot of ways [to go] in his development to where he can be a top defenseman. Getting that consistency is something you’re always looking for in a defenseman. That’s where [Barker] is right now. I wish him well.”

General manager Stan Bowman said that the Hawks always had their eyes on Leddy and that he was an essential part of the trade. It’s not his home state, but Leddy is happy with where he’s at.

“It’s a business,” Leddy said. “I had no control over it. I’m just happy with the situation I’m in right now. .  .  . I guess it wasn’t a bad thing.”



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