Blackhawks prospects Alex DeBrincat and Chad Krys were selected to Team USA's preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships, USA Hockey announced Monday.
They're two of five players that have been brought back after helping USA take home the bronze medal at last year's tournament.
DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' 2016 second-round pick (No. 36 overall), leads the Ontario Hockey League this season with 28 goals and ranks second with 56 points in 26 games with the Erie Otters. The 5-foot-7 winger, who turns 19 on Dec. 18, had one goal in five tournament games last year.
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Krys, the Blackhawks' 2016 second-round pick (No. 45 overall), has one goal and one assist in 14 games so far during his freshman year at Boston University.
He's no stranger to international hockey.
Krys, 18, most recently sported the red, white and blue sweater last year with the U.S National under-18 team in the United States Hockey League, where he scored three goals and added 26 assists in 53 games.
The players will attend training camp from Dec. 16-20 in Buffalo followed by an additional camp from Dec. 20-24, which will include pre-tournament games on Dec. 21 against Switzerland and Dec. 23 against the Czech Republic, both of which will take place in Ontario.
The 23-man roster is expected to be finalized by Dec. 24.
It’s an interesting working life, really, this backup goaltending gig.
Most of the time, you’re in hurry-up-and-wait mode. But now and then something bizarre happens – like the starting goaltender needing an appendectomy on the road – that thrusts you into the No. 1 spot for a time.
Scott Darling has been here, done this before, though, and he did it well. And considering how goaltending has been the backbone of this team’s performance this season, the Blackhawks are confident he can handle the job.
Darling gave the Blackhawks a chance again on Sunday night, his 30-stop performance keeping them within one goal in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Darling started his second consecutive game – Crawford was diagnosed with appendicitis prior to the team’s game in Philadelphia, where he had his operation. An interesting turn of events, for sure, but Darling will do what’s necessary in Crawford’s absence.
“Obviously you don’t want it to happen this way. But there’s not too many other ways it can happen so it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Darling said following Sunday’s game. “I mean I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how long Corey will be gone or what the game plan is. But I’m excited to get a few more starts than usual.”
Darling had a whole three games of NHL experience in December of 2014 when he subbed for Crawford, out with a lower-body injury at that time. That worked out just fine – he won three of his first four starts and came up even bigger in the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators that postseason.
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Coach Joel Quenneville said Darling has handled the extremes well.
“I think that’s what it’s all about in that role: you’re ready to play once every four or five games and then all of a sudden you’re playing every night and it’s a different job description, workload, pressure. But the expectations when you do get it can be different,” Quenneville said. “Some guys handle it the same way, going every fourth or fifth game and don’t change a beat. I think Darls did exactly that. He had a good demeanor, had a good approach, was patient as he always was. I think that helped a lot. He played some critical games for us in the playoffs, handled it the same way and that’s how you’re hoping they handle it.”
Darling is expected to get most, if not all, of the workload while Crawford’s out. Lars Johansson was recalled on Sunday and will serve as backup, but he has no NHL experience – then again, Darling didn’t have much a few years ago, either.
But Darling isn’t taking anything for granted during this stretch.
“I’ve gotta win some games to have the right to get those minutes,” he said.
Maybe, but the Blackhawks also have to give him some help. The goaltending hasn’t gotten a ton of that from the Blackhawks, who have sputtered offensively most of the season. No matter who’s in net, the Blackhawks need to start producing more.
For now, Darling is the man. He’s rolled with the backup-gig demands before and should be fine again. And if the Blackhawks can help him out some, they shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Crawford.
“He’s played great. I thought he played great again [Sunday],” Duncan Keith said. “He gave us a chance, and you know, more than a chance to win. He stopped breakaways and made big plays all night. We’re lucky to have him as a goalie we can look to when we’ve got a guy like Crow out.”