Hockey in the blood: Hawks prospect Beau Starrett trying to live out dream

Hockey in the blood: Hawks prospect Beau Starrett trying to live out dream

For Beau Starrett, there are a few good reasons to be one of four brothers who grew up playing hockey: the competition was right under the same roof and you never had to go far to assemble a pickup game.

“We had a goalie, a defenseman and two forwards. Almost a full starting lineup,” the Blackhawks prospect said. “My dad paves roads and highways for a living, so we have a nice big, sealed, coated driveway. We used to get out there all the time to play some 2-on-2 street hockey. We get along well, like to hoot and holler at each other but we had a blast with it and pushed each other.”

Two of Beau’s brothers, Pete and Troy, entered the business world following their collegiate hockey careers at Harvard and Babson College, respectively. His other brother, Shane, a goaltender out of the Air Force Academy, signed with the Edmonton Oilers in April. As for Beau, he’ll keep working toward that degree, but becoming a professional hockey player is still the No. 1 goal.

“Obviously the sky’s the limit,” said Starrett, who’s attending his fourth Blackhawks development camp. “Everyone here is here for the same job and competing for that one spot to make the Blackhawks. You do the best in our organization to get that job.”

Starrett is used to the competition from those pickup games with his brothers. The same goes for the pro-hockey inspiration. Starrett would love nothing more than to one day face his brother Shane, who was undrafted and coming off a stellar sophomore season with the Air Force Academy (26-6-4) when the Oilers signed him to a two-year, entry-level deal this spring.

“He’s a goalie, so it was always fun to test him and see how good he is. He took the road less traveled; going to Air Force, you definitely don’t see players from that program signing pro contracts. We’re best friends. We push each other, and I’m so proud of him to have signed a deal with Edmonton,” Beau said. “It’s definitely be a huge dream for me and my parents to maybe play against him in the NHL one day. We’ll see how that goes and who my parents would root for in that game.”

[Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office]

This fall Beau Starrett will enter his junior year at Cornell. Off the ice, he’s a communication major with a business minor – “I like to say I’m pretty versatile in the classroom,” he said. Asked what part of his game he’s improved most on the ice, Starrett said the mental side of it. He credited Dave Marks, the Blackhawks’ mental skills coach, for a lot of his progress.

“Starting from Christmas on I improved the mental part of my game. It definitely carried over on the ice. take for granted,” he said. “You can work out and bench press all you want, but it starts with the mental part of the game. I tip my cap to Dave Marks. I feel very confident out there, I feel good.”

Starrett has been motivated by his brothers all his life. Two have found post-college success in business world while another is pursuing his NHL dream. Beau wants to be the next one making a career on the ice.

“I was skating at 2, being the youngest of four. As far as I can remember I’ve been on the ice and it’s always been a dream to play in the NHL,” he said. “I chose to develop as a player. Each year I want to get better and pursue my dream.”

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.