Nick Leddy has had to grow up in a hurry. On the ice, anyway.
Just 19 when he made the Blackhawks team last fall, Leddy did a solid job. And coming into this season, with the losses of puck movers Brian Campbell and Chris Campoli, Leddy was expected to pick up a good deal of that slack.
So far hes doing just fine with the new responsibilities.
Leddy has been effective as a puck-moving defenseman and has found his niche as Duncan Keiths partner. He picked up two more assists in the Blackhawks 5-2 victory over Columbus on Saturday night, giving him six points in 10 games this season. Thats one point shy of what he had in 46 games last season.
I like the way he comes up the ice with his speed, in the zone, coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday night. He made a great poke-check to sustain the play (on Viktor Stalbergs first goal). He has good patience. Hes just one of those players who should keep getting better as he keeps going.
But whether it was last season when he was thrust onto a depth-depleted defensive core or this season with bigger responsibilities, Leddys mindset hasnt changed.
The coaching staff told me to just play my game, he said. So thats what I tried to focus on.
Pairing with Keith helps the progression, too. The duo played together a little at the end of last year, and when Keith talks, Leddy listens.
If Im not doing something he likes or that I can work on, hell let me know, Leddy said. Having him as my partner has helped me learn the little things.
Keith said Leddys adapted to the changes and greater responsibilities well.
I think its just a matter of him getting his feet wet last year and he feels more comfortable last year, Keith said. You can tell with his skating ability. He can do a lot of things out there. Plays the right side, which as a lefty isnt always the easiest side to play. He plays it well and he has a lot of confidence over there, too.
Leddys already had to learn a lot in his young pro career. Hes handling it all well and the Blackhawks are benefiting from it.
You see his speed and physically hes so much more mature than last year, Jonathan Toews said. Confidence-wise hes not afraid to play his own game out there. Hes not worried about Duncs, hes not worried about getting the pucks to anybody. Hes just skating and making plays as he sees fit.