Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ville Pokka hoping World Cup is a springboard to making Blackhawks roster

toews jersey

In the past few years, the Blackhawks defender Ville Pokka had Teuvo Teräväinen with him in training camp. Those were the only two Finnish players on their roster last fall, so they had to band together if any of the many Swedish players hawks "gave them grief.

"There's so many Swedes," said Teräväinen.

Hawks dealt Teräväinen the Hurricanes in June to dump salary to get Bryan Bickell contract on their books, meaning Pokka will have to live with what comes his way teasing himself.

Teräväinen and Pokka were reunited this week at the World Cup of Hockey, but Finland was eliminated on Thursday night in the preliminary round, they went their separate ways.

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Pokka enter an important season. He is 22 and in the final year of his entry-level deal with the Hawks. He spent the last two seasons in Rockford and still play in the NHL. He hoped the World Cup would prepare him to compete for a spot on the roster Hawks in the camp.

"I've got three good games, and played with high-end, highly skilled guys, and it's a good experience for me to play at a high level and see where I'm at," said Pokka.

Pokka emerged to fight at times while playing the World Cup, and the Hawks' off-season moves on the blue line could conspire to keep him on the outside.

Jonathan Toews to erase the bad memory against Russia in the semifinals of the World Cup
Jonathan Toews to erase the bad memory against Russia in the semifinals of the World Cup
The Hawks are deeper defensive team coming into the season with the addition of Brian Campbell, who is expected to assume a top-four role. They also have high hopes former KHL defender Michal Kempný, whom the Hawks beat several teams to sign the agreement for one year.

Add Trevor van Riemsdyk, who established himself as a regular last season; Michal Rozsival return; other young defensemen who saw time with the Hawks last season in Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg, and it is easy to see how the numbers might not break bread in favor of Pokka is.

"Every year is a tough fight for one of the last places," said Pokka. "I'm just going to camp with an open mind and try to best to impress the coaches that I can play at the NHL level."

Teräväinen said Pokka has the potential to be a very good defender.

"He was always really smart with the puck and patient, and he's getting better all the time," said Teräväinen. "When you find a few quick steps and is strong in its end, he will be really good for Chicago."

Pokka would like the opportunity to play in Chicago. He spent a lot of time waiting for this chance.

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