By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — It’s spring time in the American Hockey League, which means junior and college players are getting their first taste of the pro game.
For Rockford IceHogs defenseman Chad Krys, it’s been more than a whet-your-appetite experience after signing a three-year entry deal with the Blackhawks on March 22. Since joining the IceHogs, he’s been plugged into to Rockford power play and has three assists in three games. He certainly has the skill set and hockey IQ Rockford has lacked in its blueline corps all year.
“I think I bring a little offense from the defense,” the former Boston University standout said. “I use my feet and play the power play. But I’m a sponge right now, so whatever they ask of me, I am going to learn.”
Krys, 20, was one of five Terriers to sign with pro clubs following BU’s season. He scored eight goals and 20 assists with Boston this season – a solid 30-game showing for a defenseman. He became the first BU skater in 47 years to register a two goals and three assists in a game March 2 against Merrimack. Chicago’s second pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft logged 20 goals and 38 assists in three seasons at Boston.
With a contract worth $925,000 a season through 2021-22, Krys skated in the Blackhawks Prospects Camp the last two years, so he’s somewhat acquainted with the system, staff and other young players vying for a spot with the big club.
“I was a little nervous coming in, but the guys and the staff made it real easy for me to feel comfortable,” he said. “Once our season ended, I wanted to get our here and get some experience. I wanted to get to know the organization a little bit better and get familiarity with how they want me to play.”
So far, what brass sees is a D-man who can help usher in a new era for the Blackhawks’ defense. Krys comes in with a style similar to that of Erik Gustafsson and Henri Jokiharju, with whom he’s finding chemistry so far.
“He moves well and he’s got the hardest thing down,” IceHogs coach Derek Kings said of Krys. “He can skate.”
Krys also spent two seasons in the United States National Team Development Program and the United States Hockey League. He was the youngest member of Team USA that won the bronze medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
The Ridgefield, Connecticut, native was the youngest member of Team USA who won the bronze medal at the 2016 World Junior Championship. He also won bronze at the 2016 U18 World Junior Championships, serving as one of the team’s assistant captains. He grabbed a gold with with Team USA at the 2015 U18 tournament, scoring a goal and four assists.
Some scouts were convinced Krys was ready to turn pro out of juniors, but a twist of hockey fate proved otherwise. He played in all 39 games as a freshman but struggled. He came into his sophomore years a new player though, logging 27 points. He was an assistant captain this season and finished with eight goals despite missing eight games with an injury.
“You don’t really know what your route is going to be,” Krys said. “For me, the college route was perfect. It gives you fours years – the option of staying for four years. For me, I felt like I was ready to making the jump after three.”
The IceHogs face the Texas Stars this weekend in Austin before a return to the Midwest for road games with Milwaukee and Iowa. Rockford concludes its regular season April 14 at home against the Admirals. R.