EDMONTON, Alberta – The smile on Drew LeBlanc’s face said it all.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie center was fresh off his first NHL game, a very solid outing against the Edmonton Oilers, and LeBlanc was reveling in the moment.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It definitely makes you want to do it again, that’s for sure.”
Whether LeBlanc gets that chance again during this brief regular season or not -– he was signed after the trade deadline, so he’s ineligible for postseason play -– is uncertain right now. But after LeBlanc played about 12 minutes and recording three shots on goal, the Blackhawks liked what they saw in his inaugural game.
“He got better every shift,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “First period he was just OK, second period saw him improve and the third period he had some high-quality stuff that didn’t go in. You could see he can see plays and make plays. He did very well.”
LeBlanc was put in an enviable position on Wednesday night, centering the Blackhawks’ second line with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. Quenneville’s assessment was accurate; LeBlanc improved as the game wore on, and by the third period he was throwing some solid scoring opportunities toward Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk. LeBlanc said he just starting feeling more comfortable.
“Once you make a play it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I do belong here,’” he said following the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory in Edmonton. “The guys made it easy for me, made me feel comfortable and welcome out there.”
Sharp, who made his NHL debut in Edmonton, too, said he was impressed with LeBlanc’s first outing.
“He made some crafty plays out there. He’s really creative and had a couple scoring chances at the end. He’ll be a pretty good player,” Sharp said. “My first game was here as well… and it wasn’t like that. I don’t think I touched the puck or even wanted the puck. So it’s a good start for him.”