Phillip Danault watched the Chicago Blackhawks’ season from start to Stanley Cup finish this past season. He enjoyed every minute of it, especially seeing two Blackhawks from the same draft class he was taken in hoist that Cup.
The 20-year-old Danault hopes he can join those two, perhaps as soon as this season.
Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, taken in that 2011 NHL Entry Draft with Danault, were part of the Blackhawks’ tremendous season. And as he convenes for his third Blackhawks prospect camp this week, Danault hopes his work here, but more so in this fall’s training camp, might lead to a spot with the Blackhawks for him, too.
“When I was drafted I was looking for this already. It’s always a dream, always a goal,” Danault said of making the big club. “And I want to achieve it.”
With Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik traded at the 2013 draft, there are spots to be won on the Blackhawks roster this fall. General Manager Stan Bowman said it was time to give some Rockford players a chance, with guys like Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith putting in their time and deserving the opportunity. And if he has a stellar camp, who’s to say Danault doesn’t have the chance to do the same.
Right now, however, he’s focused on improving this week at prospect camp.
“With (director of player development) Barry Smith, obviously he helps on everything: the little details, pivots, shots, whatever you need,” Danault said. “Every time I’m on the ice I want to prove myself. Everybody’s doing the same thing.”
Danault wrapped up his final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, first with Victoriaville and then with Moncton, where he was traded to in January. Come this fall, he’ll head to Rockford where both Saad and Shaw played for a short amount of time before breaking through. But even if he’s in Rockford all season, Danault will embrace the opportunity.
“If I’m playing in Rockford, that’s good for me,” he said. “It’ll be (gaining) some maturity in the system and in hockey, so we’ll see.”
Danault saw what his fellow 2011 Blackhawks draftees got to do this past season. He saw them be a big part of this Blackhawks squad and get rewarded with the biggest, shiniest reward possible in this sport. If fate – and his own hard work – has him following in their footsteps, he’s fine with that.
“I know Chicago will make the right decision. They always do,” Danault said. “Saad and Shaw jumped to the big team and they won the Cup. They’ll know when it’s time to bring me to Chicago or keep me in Rockford. (The Blackhawks) made big trades and opened some spots. And like Stan said, young guys have to prove themselves. I have to prove myself in camp and we’ll see.”