YOUNG­STERS GET NO REST IN OFF­SEA­SON

KUBALIK, DACH, BOQVIST WILL GET BACK TO WORK QUICKLY TO KEEP THEIR MO­MEN­TUM ROLLING

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY BEN POPE BPOPE@SUN­TIMES.COM @BENPOPECST

Plzen, Czech Re­pub­lic, is best known in North Amer­ica as the orig­i­na­tor of Pil­sner beer.

But for the Black­hawks’ Do­minik Kubalik, Plzen is sim­ply home.

Back in Europe af­ter a bril­liantly suc­cess­ful first sea­son in the NHL, Kubalik will tem­po­rar­ily re­turn to his roots this au­tumn with HC Plzen, the city’s Czech Ex­traliga team.

“Right now, I’m go­ing to take a cou­ple of weeks rest to re­cover, get the mind away from hockey,” Kubalik said Thurs­day. “And then . . . same like I usu­ally do, I’ll start prac­tic­ing off the ice. To­day, I talked to [HC Plzen gen­eral man­ager] Martin Straka so I can skate with them, so that’s great and I’ll be with the team on the ice.”

Kubalik’s pro ca­reer ba­si­cally launched with HC Plzen. He de­buted with the club in 2011-12, at age 16, be­fore play­ing two years in the Cana­dian ju­nior leagues. He then re­turned to play four full sea­sons in Plzen from 2014 to 2018.

His stature in the hockey world has grown im­mensely since then — he re­mains an out­stand­ing fi­nal­ist for the Calder Tro­phy, with the win­ner not to be an­nounced un­til Oc­to­ber — but his con­nec­tion to Plzen hasn’t changed.

And con­ve­niently, the Czech Ex­traliga will start its 2020-21 sea­son on time on Sept. 17. That puts it on a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent cal­en­dar than the NHL, which plans to start its next sea­son in De­cem­ber, and the Hawks have taken ad­van­tage.

Re­cently signed Czech prospect Matej Chalupa was tem­po­rar­ily loaned back to the Ex­traliga team Mount­field HK so he can play hockey this fall.

Kubalik won’t play of­fi­cial games for HC Plzen, but he will in­for­mally prac­tice and work out with them while si­mul­ta­ne­ously ne­go­ti­at­ing a new con­tract with the Hawks. He’s a pend­ing re­stricted free agent.

That hope­fully should keep the mo­men­tum rolling steadily for­ward from his 30goal break­out NHL reg­u­lar sea­son and solid fol­low-up post­sea­son per­for­mance.

“When the year went on, when you start feel­ing more and more con­fi­dent [and] reach­ing your goals, you still want more and more,” Kubalik said. “That’s what I want right now for the next year. I want to get bet­ter. I need to get bet­ter, that’s for sure. I hope I will be bet­ter. All I can say is I’ll do any­thing for that.”

Fel­low Hawks rook­ies Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist — de­spite be­ing six and five years, re­spec­tively, younger than Kubalik — also will try to keep their mo­men­tum rolling from their rookie to sopho­more years.

Dach said Tues­day he’s set am­bi­tious goals for ad­ding muscle and weight to his body this off­sea­son.

“If I could add that size and pro­tect pucks the way I want to pro­tect them, make those plays, it’ll only help my game,” he said.

Dach plans to take a few weeks off to get his body fully healed and rested, then con­tinue his rig­or­ous off­sea­son-like work­outs from the coro­n­avirus pause this spring and sum­mer.

One of the changes he made then was to start work­ing out vir­tu­ally with Patrick Kane’s famed Chicago trainer, Ian Mack. One of the changes he’ll make is to in­cor­po­rate the lessons he learned from the play­off se­ries against the Oil­ers and Golden Knights.

“You can never be fast enough, your shot can never be hard enough,” Dach said. “I’ll have some peo­ple look over my game and look at ar­eas I can im­prove.

“I’ll get the same rou­tine I had go­ing dur­ing COVID. [I’ll] still work on my body and make sure my body’s al­ways flow­ing and in a good state where I’m not too rigid or gain­ing too much muscle. I want to add weight the right way.”

Boqvist said he has sim­i­lar goals to strengthen his body in a pro­duc­tive fash­ion.

“I want to be stronger in my up­per body and legs,” he said. “My big­gest thing is to be able to han­dle guys in the cor­ner. I’m re­ally go­ing to work on that.”

His top pri­or­ity, though, is im­prov­ing his con­di­tion­ing.

The young de­fense­man played 54 reg­u­larsea­son games in ju­niors in 2018-19, then 56 reg­u­lar-sea­son games in the NHL and AHL in 2019-20. He hopes to play the NHL’s whole slate in 2020-21.

“[I want] to be able to play 20 min­utes per game, play a big role,” Boqvist said. “[And] to be able to play 82 games, as well. Last year, I got tired dur­ing the year and didn’t play my best hockey. But I have a good few months here be­fore the sea­son starts to work on that.” ✶

“When the year went on, when you start feel­ing more and more con­fi­dent [and] reach­ing your goals, you still want more and more. That’s what I want right now for the next year. I want to get bet­ter.” Do­minik Kubalik, Hawks left winger

GETTY IM­AGES

Do­minik Kubalik won’t play in games for his home club team in the Czech Ex­traliga, but he will par­tic­i­pate in prac­tices.

DAVID BANKS/AP

Cen­ter Kirby Dach hopes to add weight and muscle to his body dur­ing the off­sea­son. “If I could add that size . . . it’ll only help my game,” Dach said.

GETTY IM­AGES

De­fense­man Adam Boqvist hopes to im­prove his con­di­tion­ing and build strength in his up­per body and legs.

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