Kris Versteeg has 15 goals and 41 points in 49 games for the Blackhawks this season. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
If you knew the name Kris Versteeg prior to this season, give yourself a gold star.
If you predicted the 22-year-old, fifth round pick of the Bruins in 2004 would challenge for rookie of the year honors with the Hawks, give yourself two gold stars.
And if you envisioned the Lethbridge, Alta., native would average close to a point a game and play a huge role in making Chicago a contender in the West, give me my gold stars back and get the hell out of here because you’re a liar.
Regardless, the 22-year-old was nice enough to answer a few questions before heading out on a mini road trip through Atlanta and St. Louis.
The Hockey News: What has it been like being part of a team making a resurgence both on and off the ice this season?
Kris Versteeg: It’s been absolutely amazing to be part of this team and watch (chairman) Rocky Wirtz and (team president) John McDonough do their thing to bring this team back to the community and get our faces out there; have everyone become a household name. It’s not only a dream come true for us players, but it’s been great for the city.
THN: You came over from Boston in 2007 (for Brandon Bochenski); what are your thoughts now looking back at the trade?
KV: In any trade the player wants to prove the team wrong and I wanted to do that to an extent, but I never really gave it too much thought. The only thing I really thought about after being traded was to make the Chicago Blackhawks roster and try and help my new team.
I wasn’t a high-profile player and wasn’t known very well, but I knew if I was given an opportunity I knew what I could do. I loved my time in Providence (Boston’s American League affiliate), especially with (coach) Scott Gordon, who was sensational for my career. But Chicago gave me an opportunity where Boston didn’t and I can’t thank them enough.
THN: What are your expectations for the Hawks heading down the stretch?
KV: The sky’s the limit. We don’t try to think too much about where we’re going to go and where we might not go; we try to focus on one game at a time. We all know what we can do if we put our minds to it. We have balanced scoring and a balanced attack. We have a lot of guys who do good work in both ends, so that makes for a team that can be pretty successful.
THN: You’re getting a lot of Calder buzz as one of the top three guys in the race; do you pay attention to how Steve Mason and Bobby Ryan are doing?
KV: To tell you the truth, I haven’t even thought about it. It’s not only those guys, but also (Blake) Wheeler and (Patrik) Berglund; there’s a lot of other great rookies out there besides just Ryan and Mason and you saw that in that YoungStars game.
For me, I really just care about the Blackhawks and making my mark here. When the year’s over I’ll look to see if I’m a part of the race, but if I’m not, I’m not.
THN: You’re scheduled to be a restricted free agent this summer, have you or your agent, David Kaye, had any contract talks with the Hawks?
KV: No, not yet, but I don’t really know too much about contract talks or how they start. I’ll just let them take care of that.
THN: Safe assumption to say it’s your desire to stay in Chicago?
KV: I’d definitely love to stay in Chicago since they’ve really given me a good chance to show what I can do in this league; they’ve put me out there in situations I never thought I would be in this year.
I’m part of this team that’s definitely on the rise and that’s in one of the top hockey markets in the world; there’s no reason I wouldn’t want to stay here.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.