Why Patrick Kane, Blackhawks will want to play with Wyatt Kalynuk


After reading newly-signed Blackhawks defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk was from Manitoba and hearing him described as serious and competitive, it was hard not to think of another member of the Hawks he may be sharing a locker room with soon.

"I would say that out of all the Badgers that I have interviewed, talked with and met in the last three years he seems to be the most stoic and (most) serious," Badgers rinkside reporter for Fox Sports Wisconsin Piper Shaw said of the blueliner, who spent the last three years at the University of Wisconsin.

On Thursday, the Blackhawks announced that they signed Kalynuk to a two-year contract beginning next season through 2021-22. He'll carry a cap hit of $925,000.

The 6'1, 189-pound D-man chose to forego his senior year in signing with the Blackhawks.

Players who signed entry-level contracts during the pause or ahead of the NHL's 24-team playoffs aren't eligible to participate in them. If Kalynuk joined the Hawks for Phase 3 training camp, he would have burned the first year of a contract.

"He's extremely hard-working and very competitive but I also always got the impression that he's very humble," Shaw added. "Obviously as the captain, I would do the most rinkside interviews with him typically. He's very hesitant to take credit for things that are going well and he's very quick to take the blame for things that could be going better."

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Much like how Jonathan Toews' teammates have tried to shake the captain's 24-hour game face, Kalynuk's squad has done the same to get a glimpse of a smile.

"Thinks he's Erik Karlsson and thinks Canada is good at everything," Shaw recalls former Badger teammate Jack Berry saying while shooting a fun video for fans.

There do seem to be some initial similarities between Toews and Kalynuk in the way they conduct themselves as well as where they're from. Take away the trophy case fighting for its life while sporting achievements from the game's highest levels, and there's one major difference between the two: Toews is a forward and Kalynuk a defenseman.

And, according to those who've watched him play for the Badgers the past three years, quite the defenseman. 

As a junior, he served as the team's captain and power-play quarterback. He recorded 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 36 games with the Badgers last season and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Additionally, the blueliner had 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Wisconsin.

The Philadelphia Flyers had selected Kalynuk in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft, but he became a free agent after the Flyers failed to sign him during their period of exclusivity.

Tony Granato, whose brother Don is a former assistant coach with the Hawks, has been head coach of the Badgers since 2016. He's also been behind a decent amount of NHL benches, including the Avalanche's when he took over the team in 2008 after Joel Quenneville left.

Granato thinks the defenseman's skating ability could make him a valuable asset for the Blackhawks.

"He's very elusive," said Granato, who was an NHL forward for 13 years. "He's a guy that I think if you look at the Blackhawks' lineup, especially the skill upfront and the forwards upfront, they need guys from the backend that can not only get them the puck, but also get up in the play with them. 

"I see him as one of the players that Toews and Kane and the skill guys are going to say, 'I want to be on the ice with him,' because of the way he reads the game and he's able to support the play from a defenseman's standpoint. I think it's a great fit."

According to Granato, Kalynuk's offensive skill set won't hurt his chances of sticking with the Hawks either.

"His ability to get the puck through from the point, whether it be on the power play or in the offensive zone, is really innate," the coach said. "He's got that ability to know how to bypass the shot blocker's lane and get it through. That's a really important skill to have just from the standpoint that the game has become a shot-block league.

"You not only have one goalie, you have layers of shot blockers. And he has the ability at the back end to deliver the puck back to the forwards and that's what forwards want, they want guys that if you get it back to the point they know that either it's going to get to the net or it's going to get back down low. And he sees that part of the game and has a real good feel for that."

It's those offensive tools that have made him an effective power-play quarterback at the college level. But, could the Hawks give him a chance at taking the lead on the man advantage early on?

"At some point," Granato said. "Again, I think that the players he's going to play with will determine that and if they like being on the ice with him and they like the way he gets the puck through to the net and they like the way he gets the puck up on the ice in a breakout, he'll get that opportunity. I think those are his strengths. At this point, that's who's going to dictate whether he plays or not, the guys he's playing with. They're the ones that will find ways to get him on the ice and be on the ice with him."

Kalynuk's former coach thinks he's good to go at the NHL level whenever the Hawks want to give him the opportunity.

"I think he's ready," Granato said. "First of all, he's a smart kid. If he thought he needed another year to polish his skills up or needed to do something to give himself a better chance, he would have stayed in school. So I think he's ready for that. Will he need some seasoning in the minors? That depends on what Chicago sees in him and what they have in depth at the blue line next year. But I see him getting his opportunity and being ready for it and making the most of it. Again, I think it's a great addition to their organization and it's a perfect fit for both sides."

Contact Us