Koekkoek wait­ing to see where he will fit in

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BLACKHAWKS AND BULLS - By Jimmy Green­field

When new play­ers have ar­rived via trade or from Rock­ford, Black­hawks coach Jeremy Col­li­ton’s style has been to work them into the lineup im­me­di­ately.

That wasn’t the case with de­fense­man Slater Koekkoek, whom the Hawks ac­quired Fri­day in a trade that sent Jan Rutta to the Light­ning and also swapped lat­er­ound draft picks.

Koekkoek (pro­nounced “Koo Koo”) was with the team Sat­ur­day for the morn­ing skate wear­ing No. 68 but wasn’t sched­uled to play against the Golden Knights.

There sim­ply isn’t a spot for him at the mo­ment. The Hawks have been happy with their cur­rent blend of vet­eran and young blue lin­ers: Dun­can Keith, Brent Seabrook, Con­nor Mur­phy, Erik Gustafs­son, Henri Jok­i­harju and Carl Dahlstrom.

Koekkoek, 24, has been try­ing to fig­ure out where he fits in with the Hawks. He had not been able to crack the Light­ning’s lineup and was with their AHL team when he learned of the trade.

“In my head, I have some ideas, but ul­ti­mately it’s up to the coach and what he thinks,” Koekkoek said. “I’m just here to work hard un­til I get my op­por­tu­nity and then do what I can out there.”

Col­li­ton spoke highly of Koekkoek’s skat­ing skills and said it’s not nec­es­sary for him to be overly phys­i­cal.

“He can com­pete for a role,” Col­li­ton said. “We’ll see how that plays out. We can watch all the tape you want, but when you get him, here that’s when we’re go­ing to re­ally eval­u­ate him.”

With Koekkoek and Bran­don Davidson, the Hawks are car­ry­ing eight de­fense­men and will have an­other in the mix when Gus­tav Forsling (up­per torso) comes off in­jured re­serve. The most likely sce­nario would be send­ing Forsling and Davidson to Rock­ford. Davidson al­ready has cleared waivers and Forsling is ex­empt.

Young guest stars: The Hawks in­vited 9-year-old Col­man Kuz­niar to join them on the ice for morn­ing prac­tice to ful­fill his wish to prac­tice with his fa­vorite team. Kuz­niar, who has com­mon vari­able im­mune de­fi­ciency, was able to shoot and score on Cam Ward and spent time talk­ing with his fa­vorite player, Jonathan Toews.

“(Toews) just wanted me to beat him in a face­off,” Kuz­niar said. “Which I did.”

The Hawks worked with Make-A-Wish Illi­nois to help Kuz­niar’s dream come true.

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