THIS KID MIGHT STICK

Three games into NHL ca­reer, Hay­den al­ready has made im­pres­sion on Hawks

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKSBEAT - MARK POTASH Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ MarkPo­tash. Email: mpotash@sun­times.com

After Black­hawks rookie John Hay­den scored his first NHL goal in his sec­ond NHL game Satur­day against the Maple Leafs, he was even bet­ter Sun­day against the Avalanche. He had two as­sists, five hits and a plus- 3 dif­fer­en­tial in a 6- 3 vic­tory.

‘‘ Some­times you get that first goal early on, it gives you some re­lief that you can play at this level,’’ said cap­tain Jonathan Toews, who scored in his NHL de­but in 2007 and ended up with a point in his first 10 games en route to fin­ish­ing third in vot­ing for the Calder Tro­phy.

‘‘ You be­lieve in your skill and what you can do. Sys­tem- wise, [ Hay­den’s] get­ting more and more com­fort­able with be­ing in the right place and even­tu­ally trust­ing his own in­stincts.’’

While Hay­den’s ty­ing goal against the Leaf­swas an im­pres­sive snipe off a two- on- one pass from Toews, his net- front con­tri­bu­tion in the vic­tory against the Avalanche bodes even bet­ter for the Hawks— pro­vided he can sus­tain it.

Bat­tling in front of the net, Hay­den as­sisted on the first two goals of the Hawks’ stun­ning five­goal third pe­riod.

With the Hawks trail­ing by two goals mid­way through the pe­riod, Hay­den tipped a shot by Dun­can Keith that Toews de­flected past goalie Jeremy Smith tomake it 3- 2. Shortly after the en­su­ing face­off, Hay­den — again in front of the net — lunged to tip a re­bound in the slot to Richard Panik for a goal that tied the score 17 sec­onds later.

A week ear­lier, Hay­den was play­ing for No. 8 seed Yale against No. 1 seed Har­vard in the East Coast Ath­letic Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment. Now he’s spend­ing his spring break in the mid­dle of a red- hot Hawks run.

‘‘ It was awe­some,’’ the 6- 3, 210- pound Hay­den said. ‘‘ I think it says a lot about this locker room. I haven’t been here long, but I can al­ready tell that there’s amaz­ing lead­er­ship and a cul­ture to never give up.’’

It’s a small sam­ple size, but in his first three games with the Hawks, Hay­den has one goal, three points and a plus- 4 dif­fer­en­tial. The Hawks have won all three games, and Hay­den has yet to be on the ice for a goal against.

‘‘ You like his com­po­sure in games, his thought process, phys­i­cal­ity,’’ coach Joel Quen­neville said. ‘‘ He comes up with a lot of pucks. Had some big, hard hits [ against the Avalanche]. You no­tice him.’’

Rook­ies have come and gone since the Hawks won their first Stan­ley Cup in 49 years in 2010, but a power for­ward­who can get in front of the net, throw his weight around and con­trib­ute de­fen­sively seems to have a bet­ter chance of stick­ing around. Hay­den al­ready looks like a guy who will be given every chance to make it. Play­ing on a line with Toews is a pretty good head start.

‘‘[ Toews] is ar­guably the best player in the world, and he works prob­a­bly harder than any­one and re­ally val­ues the de­tails in the game,’’ Hay­den said. ‘‘ It’s been nice learn­ing from him, and hope­fully I can soak in a lot more.’’

Hay­den, 22, was a third- round draft pick by the Hawks in 2013, a pick ac­quired when they traded Michael Fro­lik to the Jets after win­ning the Cup in 2013. He still has class­work to fin­ish at Yale, but he is ac­cli­mat­ing well to a team in a much higher league.

‘‘ Every day, every prac­tice, every game, I’m tran­si­tion­ing a lit­tle bet­ter,’’ Hay­den said. ‘‘ It’s re­ally the coaches and guys in this locker room that are help­ing to make it pretty seam­less.’’

NOTE: The Hawks will honor for­mer goalie Ed Belfour with ‘‘ One More Shift’’ on Thurs­day against the Stars. Belfour won two Vez­ina Tro­phies and 201 games in eight sea­sons with the Hawks.

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Rookie John Hay­den has a goal, two as­sists and a plus- 4 dif­fer­en­tial in his first three games with the Hawks. And he’s not afraid of con­tact, ei­ther.

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