Bryan Bickell is enjoying the stability.
A year ago, the Chicago Blackhawks rookie was living out of a suitcase, making over a dozen trips between the NHL and AHL.
This year, he’s been brought up to stay.
“Last year, I was in a hotel for about four months between the call-ups and the playoffs,” Bickell said. “It was kind of rough, but I’m happy to be settled and hopefully I can stay here for a long time.”
Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers Bickell, 24, had 12 goals and 28 points in 50 games for the Blackhawks. He is currently seventh in rookie scoring.
“It’s been a great year and I’ve been given a chance to get some ice time and I’ve been trying to work with it,” Bickell said. “I knew going into the year that they had to move some guys and that there was going to be some spots open. There wasn’t anything guaranteed for anybody, but I had a good camp and I had a good start to the season.”
Bickell was selected by the Blackhawks in the second round – 41 overall – of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and worked his way up the system.
He spent four years with the Ottawa 67’s before finishing his junior career with the Windsor Spitfires.
From there he went to play with the Northfolk Admirals, getting called up for three games with the Blackhawks during the 2006-2007 season, scoring two goals.
The following year, the native of Bowmanville, Ont., was called up for four games with the Blackhawks while registering 39 points in 73 games with the Rockford IceHogs.
Last year, he finished with four points in his 16 games with the Blackhawks and added another 31 in 65 with the IceHogs.
“I didn’t have a lot of practices with the Blackhawks last year,” Bickell said. “I played 16 games with them and I think I only practiced with them twice. It had to have been at least 14 times that I got called up. So I spent the year going to Rockford and back and with the salary cap issue, I had to do what I had to do.”
The six-foot-four, 223-pound winger made an impression in his short stints with the club, that included four playoff games. Despite the Blackhawks having to trim their payroll following their Stanley Cup championship, Bickell was offered a three-year deal.
He’s been asked to fill in a supporting role behind the Blackhawks stars.
“Bick has been pretty consistent in his game this year,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. “He gives us some size and has scored some big goals for us. He’s one of those guys at the end of the day, you’re pleased with because he does a lot of things for you.
“Last year it was a case of the salary and fitting his numbers into the lineup. But certainly every time he came up last year he played well for us and gave us something to think about. We knew he was capable of playing and that’s the difference between playing down there and up here is playing consistently on a game-to-game basis and he’s been doing that.”