Photo: Dan Hickling/ Hickling Images
By JACK LeGWIN
It’s all about winning for Blake McLaughlin.
Having scored 36 points (17G- 19A) through 27 games for the Chicago Steel, the fast rising University of Minnesota commit has led the Chicago Steel to a 16-12-1 record heading into a three game series in three days this weekend.
“I just want to start stringing wins together,” McLaughlin said. “I want to win all three of the games this weekend and work our way to winning the Anderson Cup, then move on to win the Clark Cup.”
McLaughlin continued, expressing confidence in the team that the Steel put out on the ice every game.
“I really just think our team plays well as a five man unit,” McLaughlin said. “The line I’m on has been beneficial for me, and it’s been special to play with those guys. (Baker) Shore is a great 200 foot player and (Jack) Dugan is a very skilled forward with a high hockey IQ, so we all complement each others’ games. We have a lot of guys on this team that can put the puck in the net. There’s not too much pressure on me to score.”
As for transitioning to the USHL off the ice, McLaughlin said that the change to being away from home was not a difficult adjustment.
“It hasn’t been that hard for me,” McLaughlin said. “I have a great family that I stay with here. I haven’t gotten homesick too much or anything like that. It helps a lot to have the guys around to do stuff with outside of the rink to create the brotherhood. It’s really nice.”
Sometimes the best things for athletes is to get away from the sport they love so much and make the most of the offseason.
“Me and a couple buddies from the USHL are going to go to California after the season and go surfing down there, so that should be fun. I think you need some time off after a 60 game plus season.”
Having led Grand Rapids (Minn.) to a state championship in 2016-2017, McLaughlin said he felt like he had nothing left to achieve at the high school level, which led to his decision to play for the Steel for the whole season.
“After the season I had last year, I felt like I had really reached the peak of high school,” McLaughlin said. “I felt like it was time for me to move on to playing at the next level. The biggest thing for me now is keeping my body healthy for a full season. Eating the right food, keeping my off ice preparation up.”
Growing up in Minnesota, McLaughlin said that the State of Hockey helped him to mold him into the player he is.
“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone starts at a young age. There won’t be a nice day that you won’t find guys skating at the pond or playing under the pavilion. That’s really just what you do when you get bored. Go out and play pond hockey.”
A skilled scorer, McLaughlin said he watches a select few players, but also watches the style that teams play.
“I model my game after a few guys,” McLaughlin said. “I like watching the teams too and how they play, like the Penguins. They play a fast transition game, and I like watching guys like Jake Guentzel. The main one for me though, is Patrick Kane. He’s a great goal scorer and can make plays at a high speed, he’s really fun to watch.”
Having represented Team USA in past tournaments in younger divisions, getting a chance to represent his country in the World Juniors U20 tournament in the future would mean a lot to McLaughlin.
“To throw that sweater on means everything,” McLaughlin said. “To compete for yourself and your country, you never forget that. It’s something that is truly special.”
McLaughlin is currently ranked as the No. 25 North American skater on the new NHL Central Scouting list, and is eligible for the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft.