Chicago Blackhawks

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.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”