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By: Mike Peck
07/10/2008 12:08 PM -

Winger gets set for 2008-09 season

Rockford, Ill.-Getting set for his second full season of professional hockey, winger Jack Skille is looking to build on his rookie campaign.  On the surface, and with the expectations placed on him, you have to look beyond Skille’s statistics from the 2007-08 to get the whole story behind his rookie season.

The Madison native posted a modest 16 goals and 33 points in 59 games with Rockford and three goals and five overall points in 16 games with the Blackhawks.  But like most young players, it’s the little things that must be improved upon.

With the summer offseason in its peak, players are beginning to get back into the training routine and back on the ice. There is time to reminisce about the past season and look ahead to a promising campaign on the horizon.

“I think I played well,” said Skille after a workout at the Blackhawks prospect camp about the 2007-08 season.  “From start to finish I improved a lot.  It was a slow start, but then I think I kicked it into gear.  Half way through, I got called up. I thought I played great up here.  Unfortunately I got sent back down, but I thought I still played pretty well when I got sent back down. I’m happy with my year.

“I wasn’t getting a ton of points, but again that’s not too huge in my mind. Eventually I will be able to rack up the points.”

There were plenty of highs and lows for Skille in ’07-08.  There was the dominating performance on March 9 against Iowa in which Skille put on an impressive individual performance notching a hat trick and an assist, including the overtime game-winner in Rockford’s 4-3 victory.

Or his first career NHL goal in Montreal on Jan. 8 on a night in which some of the Canadians and Blackhawks former greats were honored.

Some of the lows include a -3 plus/minus rating during the regular season and a postseason that could have used a little more contribution.

With his first taste of NHL hockey behind him, Skille is now focusing on the new campaign and a new dedication.  The new dedication was evident in Bensenville this week.

“I’ve been working hard,” said Skille. “I actually wasn’t even invited to this camp. I’m moving to Chicago for the summer and decided to stop by to get some good workouts in.“

Skille has been residing in Madison where he grew up, attended college and played at the University of Wisconsin.  With the lakes, weather and summer atmosphere to go along with adequate training facilities, one would think that Madison would be ideal for a young professional athlete during the offseason. 

That’s not the case for the former Badgers star as sometimes the distractions of being at home out weigh the positives. Focusing on the future has been more important than zeroing in on the present.

“Being down here (in Chicago) helps me focus on the big picture, keep a mind set on training camp and getting ready,” replied Skille.  “Paul (Goodman) is a really good weight trainer.  Every single workout I’ve been in so far has been pretty hard and I think he is going to do a lot for me.”

Goodman is the Blackhawks new Strength and Conditioning Coach after spending the past four years in the same role at the University of Vermont.

Other Blackhawks skaters are also spending considerable amount of time in Chicago this summer including Cam Barker and Petri Kontiola.

“Coming down here is probably going to be the biggest difference for me,” said Skille.  “Being down in Chicago, being a part of the city, learning the ropes and hanging out with guys that have been playing is really going to help me out a lot.“

The 6-1 winger will also try to use the experience gained from his first full professional season to his advantage.

Said Skille, “The AHL is more controlled than college and I learned that I’m a better pro than I was a college player. That’s just because everyone is in the right spot. 

“In the NHL, it’s even more so. You are playing with even better players and it’s easier to make a quick decision because you’re teammates are right where they are suppose to be. So it makes it easier on you, but at the same time the level, in the NHL, is a lot quicker, a lot faster.   Obviously there is a big difference between college and the AHL and then there is another between the AHL and NHL.”

If all goes well for the IceHogs 2007-08 Rookie of the Year, he will be donning a Blackhawks jersey once the new season commences in October.  With a very deep and young team, however, spots will be at a premium in Chicago’s training camp this fall. 

You don’t have to remind Skille of this and he tries to keep that in perspective.

“Even if I go to training camp and play well and they still send me down, I’m still going to have a great learning experience,” said Skille. “Moving here and doing the whole summer thing and focusing shows them that I really want to be here.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

It’s that kind of attitude that is running through the Blackhawks organization these days.  With the high expectations placed on Skille, a 2005 first round draft pick of the Blackhawks, the winger is trying to live up to the hype and help boast Chicago into the postseason in 2009.

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