The Blackhawks added another prospect to their pipeline last week by signing undrafted free-agent forward Mike Hardman to a two-year, entry-level deal. The first year of his contract will be burned this season and he will start with the taxi squad.
Hardman, 22, is coming off a strong sophomore campaign at Boston College, where he accumulated 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 24 games. There were a handful of teams interested in his services after his NCAA season ended and the Blackhawks won out, in part because they were one of the first teams to talk to him from the very beginning.
"They've always been there and I just thought it was a good fit for me," Hardman said. "It’s a young team and they're preparing for the future. ... I think it was a perfect situation, just looking at the depth of the organization and how they’re building for the future here. But also, it’s a storied franchise, Original Six team, so it was hard to pass up on."
Hardman, who grew up a Boston Bruins fan, said he loves watching four-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron play but tries to model his game after Brady Tkachuk. He's 6-foot-2, 205 pounds and likes to play physical, but also prides himself on creating plays and scoring from dirty areas.
"I'd say I’m a physical player but also I’m a guy that has a shoot-first mentality and can also make plays," Hardman said. "The last two years at BC, I was playing with two really good guys and was able to create space for them, play physical, get the puck to them, but they were also able to find me and I just had a shoot-first mentality. I think one of the biggest strengths is my shot. I think that’s what I can bring to Chicago."
With 16 games left in the regular season and the Blackhawks fighting for their playoff lives, it's unclear whether or not Hardman will draw into the lineup down the stretch. The Blackhawks would probably like to get him in at some point, but no declarations have been made.
The first step is getting him acclimated to the group and that's what happened on Wednesday. He sat in on a team meeting next to Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, then practiced with the taxi squad for the first time after going through a seven-day quarantine.
"Excited to get him here and get him on the ice," head coach Jeremy Colliton. "For now, it’s just get him sharp and get him up to speed. That’s the plan. There’s no specific plan for getting him in, but the first step is having him out there with our guys."