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The Chicago Blackhawks’ signing of goaltender Robin Lehner in 2019 caught a lot of folks off guard, as the team still had Corey Crawford between the pipes. However, the duo quickly formed a formidable tandem that bailed a sloppy and poorly coached squad out on a nearly nightly basis. Fans quickly warmed to Lehner, hoping he’d stay beyond his one-year contract. That didn’t happen, as he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights three weeks before the season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the return for Lehner was a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft that former general manager Stan Bowman used on USNTDP goaltender Drew Commesso. Since the pick, Commesso has played NCAA Tournament games with Boston University and represented the United States at the World Junior Championship, the World Championship, and the Olympics. He excelled at each stop along the way and has Blackhawks fans excited for the future, as many look to him as a key piece to a potential championship puzzle.
Commesso started his first professional season with the Rockford IceHogs and has his American Hockey League career off to a great start. He has a 2.22 goals-against average (GAA), a .919 save percentage (SV%), and a shutout in five starts. The IceHogs recently named the young netminder their Player of the Month for October.
We were lucky to have Commesso on the CHGO Blackhawks Podcast earlier this week, and you can instantly tell that this kid is all about getting better and becoming the top goaltender for the Blackhawks. His transition from the college game to the professional ranks has been seamless.
“It’s been different from what I’ve been used to,” he revealed. “The day-to-day schedule is much different than in college. It’s an adjustment, but it’s one I’m enjoying. Not having classes is nice. It allows me to recover more and take in some more time at the rink.”
Most players will tell you that the game remains the same when you move from level to level, but it’s the difference in speed from where you were to where are that is the biggest adjustment. Commesso echoed that line of thought.
“It’s the speed and how everyone is really good. Everyone can shoot and make plays. That helps me. In college, I could get away with some things. Here, you get pushed every day in practice and half to give it your all. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is looking through traffic. Guys get to the net a lot harder and are a lot bigger.”
Commesso has been preparing for this moment for a long time. He grew up with Boston Bruins season tickets and spent a lot of his childhood three rows behind Tuukka Rask. However, he was not in the building for the infamous “17 seconds” in 2013. He went the extra mile over the summer and followed Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s training regimen. Commesso went out of his way to note that Vasilevskiy’s flexibility and explosiveness levels are what he wants to achieve.
“The pro game is more demanding on your body, and I knew I was going to have to put on some muscle,” he said. “I was stretching as much as I could and taking yoga classes three times a week. I’ve already noticed such a difference.”
He is training like Vasilevskiy and says his game emulates Jeremy Swayman of the Bruins and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers. In fact, he and Swayman trained together in Boston during the offseason. If he can get to their level at the NHL level, both the Blackhawks’ front office and fanbase will be beyond thrilled!
Commesso is constantly working on improving his game, even when he’s not in the crease, which is somewhat of a new experience for him.
“Preparation wise, it’s pretty much the same whether I’m playing or not,” he said. “This is pretty new to me. When I’m not playing, I need to be doing something to get better, as well. I need to do something to separate myself, even if I’m not on the ice. I’ve been bringing a notepad and taking notes on the other goalies. The tendencies guys have and what makes them look good and be successful. I figure if I’m not playing, I can still find a way to get better.”
There is no doubt current general manager Kyle Davidson is building his team with good hockey players who are also good human beings. Character is a massive part of Davidson’s equation, and Commesso fits that mold, even though the previous regime drafted him.
“The character guys the Blackhawks are drafting have been unbelievable,” Commesso said. “They’ve all been incredible guys. That helps so much. Some of the best teams I’ve ever been on were filled with great individuals who are great people off the ice. That makes it easier for us to play together. We all push each other really hard. We have the same goal: to play for the Blackhawks and be a key part of them. Having guys with similar mindsets and approaches to the game helps everyone.”
We will continue to monitor Commesso’s progress with our weekly Rebuild Report, so make sure you are a Diehard to get access to it. Check out the full interview with Commesso below and subscribe to the CHGO Sports YouTube channel.
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