Straight from the college game, Dylan Sikura and Blake Hillman will get their NHL shot with the Blackhawks
CHICAGO – From an amateur to a pro can sometimes be a long and drawn out process for anyone in any sports. Sometimes it’s a process that goes quickly, while other times it takes a little while.
Dylan Sikura’s transition happened over the course of a weekend.
Following his Northeastern team’s elimination from the NCAA Hockey Tournament against Michigan on Saturday, the forward had a pen in his hand and a contract on the table in front of him, ready to begin the next chapter of his life.
The two-year contract he signed officially begins his career with the Blackhawks, some four years after the team selected the forward in the sixth-round of the 2014 draft. Since then, Sikura has enjoyed four standout years at Northeastern where he accumulated 58 goals and 88 assists in 137 career games. In 2017-2018, he finished with 22 goals and 32 assists and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for top college hockey player.
Yet he knows it will be much different when he stops on the ice for the final five games of the Blackhawks’ season.
“The speed, the size, there’s no bad players at this level,” said Sikura of the different between college and the NHL. “It will be a little adjustment with the time and space with the puck out there. I’m just excited to get going.”
Sikura will be practicing this week with the team and is expected to make his debut Thursday when the Blackhawks host the Jets at the United Center. Knowing that his work the last five games will be mostly for the 2018-2019 season, the rookie forward won’t try to do too much.
“Just try to be a sponge and try to learn from the older guys and the coaching staff,” said Sikura. “It’s a little adjustment but just get a little experience here and get my five games in and hopefully learn as much as I can and come back next year.”
Over these next two weeks, Sikura joins with a number of young players on the roster, including another draft pick added on Tuesday. The Blackhawks announced that defenseman and 2016 sixth round pick Blake Hillman will join the team immediately after the end of his collegiate season at Denver.
It provides a much different feel for veterans like Patrick Kane, who are used to ramping up for a playoff run in late March and early April instead of getting younger players experience.
“I kinda remember my first years where there was a lot of veterans. Now here coming into this locker room, they are a lot of young guys so it’s a little bit different,” said Kane. “You try to make them feel welcome, I mean, the coaches talk to them, probably tell them to play their game, but for the most part that’s what we want them to do – not really change anything for our liking – just go out and play with what got you here.
“It’s always good to have young guys around.”
They’ll certainly have plenty over the next two weeks.