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Welcome to the August edition of Blackhawks Bytes, a series featuring quotes and comments from players, coaches, management, journalists and fans alike concerning everything Chicago Blackhawks. The purpose of this ongoing column is to capture a slice of the existing outlook, attitudes and culture surrounding the team. Please join me as we have some fun with the everyday, albeit fascinating aspect of human nature; the power of words.

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We’re getting that much closer to hockey as we head into August. In this month’s Bytes, we hear from a few of the newer Blackhawks, as well as one of the trailblazers from last season. We also discuss a segment from a speaker at the Blackhawks’ recent player development camp.

Foligno Commits to Chicago

When Nick Foligno was part of the trade with the Boston Bruins that moved him and Taylor Hall to Chicago, Foligno didn’t have to actually sign with the Blackhawks. He could have easily tested the free agent market and signed with any number of teams. After all, he’s a well-respected veteran player with leadership qualities and plenty left in the tank. But the 35-year-old chose to sign with Chicago instead. Sure, the $4 million dollar cap hit for one year was a nice incentive. But Foligno gave a few other reasons for joining the Blackhawks.

Nick Foligno Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, shown here with the Boston Bruins, has many reasons for joining the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Granted he has a penchant for saying all the right things. This tends to happen after spending 16 seasons in the NHL, especially if six of them were served as the captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets. But this quote, especially, stood out to me.

But also just the direction they’re headed (the Blackhawks), you know, to help build something. I kind of did that in Columbus when I first got there with a really great group of guys, and it reminds me of that a little bit. I feel like I have the blueprint. I really like the people that are in the organization, and, obviously, Connor Bedard is a special talent that I’m looking forward to playing with.

It’s true Foligno has the experience with Columbus of playing with a young group, working together, and getting better as they go along. He will certainly be able to pull from his background with the Blue Jackets. In a way, it’s almost like going back in time for him. In Chicago he’ll have more responsibility and be able to play more minutes, whereas on a stacked Boston Bruins team he was delegated to a fourth line depth role. He further expanded,

The opportunity to play a little bit higher up — I feel healthy, I feel great and I’m looking forward to that expanded role a little bit even at my age… How tight you are as a group is gonna dictate how successful we are as a team, and I hope to bring that to Chicago.

It will be interesting to see where Foligno fits into the lineup, and what kind of impact he’ll make with the team.

Donato Banking On His Versatility

Let’s move on to another new acquisition for the Blackhawks, Ryan Donato, who signed a two-year contract with a $2 million annual cap hit this offseason. “Versatile” is the word everyone seems to use when describing Donato.

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In his six-year NHL career, the 27-year-old has suited up for four different teams (Bruins, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken). He’s had to be flexible in order to earn playing time. With all four teams, Donato has been deployed up and down in the lineup and is comfortable in all three forward positions. He recently spoke about his ability to adapt.

I’ve learned to do that the tough way. I’ve had to adapt…because sometimes other guys were in situations that I wanted to be in, and I had to learn to play in other situations to get my playing time. Now that I’ve adapted and learned, I feel like I can be more valuable to some teams in the sense that I can fill whatever role necessary.

Nothing will be a given for the Boston, Massachusetts native; he’ll have to earn his way in Chicago as well. There will be plenty of healthy competition with numerous prospects and returning players vying for a spot on the team. But Donato’s versatility will definitely give him a leg up.

Ryan Donato Seattle Kraken
Forward Ryan Donato has played with four different teams in his six seasons in the NHL, most recently with the Seattle Kraken. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

According to Donato’s offseason skating coach, Zach Longo, he’s also been focusing on refining his skating stride as well as his strength. Said Longo, “One thing he has really improved is his power. He is extremely strong in the gym. He puts up great numbers. It was really just about translating that power that he has in the gym into his skating.”

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At 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, Donato certainly isn’t huge, so finding more strength and power in all aspects of his game should be helpful. This will be something to watch as the season gets underway.

Raddysh Excited for Another Season With the Blackhawks

While it seems there are two newcomers looking forward to join the team, Taylor Raddysh is pretty psyched to kick off his second full season with the Blackhawks. As stated above, Foligno and Donato are hoping for a bigger opportunity in Chicago. But Raddysh has already benefitted from just that this past season.

Taylor Raddysh Chicago Blackhawks
Taylor Raddysh is excited to suit up for another season with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 25-year-old netted 20 goals, which was tied for the team high, as well as 37 points in 78 games, while averaging 16:34 minutes of ice time. All are currently career highs, and Raddysh hopes to continue this upward trajectory. He’s bought into the team mentality head coach Luke Richardson has been preaching since he took over as bench boss at the start of the 2022-23 season. Says Raddysh,

…when I look at our team, we are very young, but we grew a lot throughout the season. We went through so many changes, guys coming in, guys leaving, but I think we handled all of that well and really came together as a group by the end of the year.

But I think what I’m most excited about is the new faces and the guys that are returning. I think we are going to have a pretty good team and we are building in the right direction.

Raddysh and his teammates really did come together last season, surprising many and exceeding expectations. Sure, it didn’t really show in the standings. But as someone who watched every single game, I can attest to the squad building and growing as the season went on. They were decimated of talent at the trade deadline, but that was simply motivation for this group. They finished the season on a high note despite their shortcomings.

Related – 4 Blackhawks Prospects Who Could Reach the NHL in 2023-24

This is where Raddysh and the rest of the team will want to pick up, incorporating the new additions along the way.

McGillis on Creating Shifts

Finally, I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom from Brock McGillis, former hockey player and one of the first professional players to come out as being gay. McGillis is now an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the hockey world.

The Blackhawks invited McGillis to speak at their recent prospect development camp in July. Here’s a clip from his presentation.

This really spoke to me. Not just about respecting inclusion, but simply about doing the right thing and leading by example. It’s so true that you never know who you’re impacting or influencing, or what changes you make with your actions. It’s an excellent life lesson, and I’m glad the Blackhawks’ organization felt it was important enough to pass on to their prospects.

Here’s the full story of creating shifts from a Q&A session with McGillis.

That does it for this installment of Blackhawks’ Bytes. I know I’ve certainly been feeling the dog days of the offseason, so I hope you enjoyed some hockey talk! Hang in there; before we know it there will be training camp and preseason games to discuss!