Darien, Vernon Hills, Winnetka skaters invited to Blackhawks Prospct Camp
Paul Phillips (left), of Darien, scraps for the puck with Brandon Saad, who played a few games with the Blackhawks this year. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 2:00AM
CHICAGO — It’s a big week for Steven Spinell and the Miami (Ohio) hockey program.
Spinell is attending his first Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Camp this week at Johnny’s Ice House West, but is set to be pulled away Wednesday afternoon for a press conference at Solider Field.
The Vernon Hills native and senior defenseman at Miami will be at the home of the Bears to introduce the Hockey City Classic, an outdoor doubleheader in February, featuring a game between the RedHawks and the University of Notre Dame. In the other matchup, Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota will square off.
“It’s really cool. It will be the first outdoor game to be played at Soldier Field,” Spinell said. “It will be exciting. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Miami officials wanted Spinell to attend the press conference since he is already in town for the Blackhawks camp. Spinell said the game has been in the works for some time. It will be Miami’s first outdoor game.
“It will be a little bit different. There will be a lot more people. It will be quite the event,” said Spinell, who expects to see many family and friends at the game.
Spinell, who attended Vernon Hills High School for two years, left home to join a juniors team in Ohio. After the club moved and became the Fargo Force of the USHL, Spinell attended Fargo South High School in North Dakota.
Spinell is attending his fourth NHL Prospect Camp. He participated in Washington’s tryout two years ago and attended camps in Montreal and Boston last year.
“It’s very cool. It’s always good to be in your hometown with friends and family to see what you’re doing,” Spinell said. “You know what to expect when you come here. So far, they have treated us first class all around.”
Spinell, 21, is one of six Chicago area natives attending this week’s prospect camp. Many of them, including Spinell, expect to return to their college teams, but are hoping to impress Blackhawks coaches enough to be drafted or to be offered a free-agent contract in the future.
Among the attendees, Bartlett native Vincent Hinostroza was drafted last month in the sixth round by the Hawks, while Darien resident Paul Phillips was a seventh-round pick in 2009.
Phillips is attending his fourth Hawks Prospect Camp. He studied at Hinsdale South for two years before leaving home to join the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League. In 2007-08, he was the youngest player in the league.
“You know what to expect, but you’re still a little nervous,” said Phillips, a 20-year-old defenseman. “You get more comfortable with the testing. You hope (the Hawks) see my progression; see how I keep doing.”
After the camp, Phillips will return to Denver to work the Pioneers’ youth camp and then return to Darien until school starts. He will return for his senior year at the University of Denver this fall.
New Trier graduate Matt Lindblad, 22, a Winnetka resident, is attending his first Hawks Prospect Camp after coming off an injury-plagued sophomore season at Dartmouth. His father, Tyler, graduated from Dartmouth in 1985.
“I was invited last year, but I decided to work on my skating,” Lindblad said. “I was thrilled with getting the opportunity (this year). There was a Blackhawks scout that watched me and gave me the invite.”
The forward played for the Trevians before joining Sioux Falls in the USHL. During the offseason, Lindblad is continuing his skate training in Milwaukee.
“It’s surreal that it has happened so fast,” Lindblad said. “New Trier was a lot of fun. Before I knew it, I was at Dartmouth with a couple of my best friends (Mark Goggin, from Glen Ellyn, and Cab Morris, from Wilmette).”
This week’s prospect camp ends with a full scrimmage between the 48 invitees at 10 a.m. Friday that is open to the public.