Bring on October! The Rockford IceHogs start their 16th season this year, being the 8th season in the AHL and as the primary affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. While we are all looking forward to October and the beginning of the regular hockey season, I’d like to look even further to playoff hockey. The Chicago Blackhawks have provided us with fan pleasing Stanley Cup Playoff hockey at its’ best and with the movement of players this year, I’m thinking the Rockford IceHogs are in the running for the Calder Cup Playoffs and I will certainly be cheering them on to win the Calder Cup. It’s been since 2007 that we’ve seen the Hog’s in the playoffs and they are due.
Besides being local and a fan, it is with good reason I think the IceHogs will be top contenders this season. The top 10 Chicago Blackhawks prospects, as listed by NHL.com, include 8 IceHogs. In quick review they are:
Adam Clendening, Defenseman, finished with the Hogs last season with 74 GP, 12-47-59. The 21-year-old, NY native, Boston University grad was a 2nd round choice by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 draft. In the 2012-13 season he was named a 2nd team AHL All-Star and Rockford’s Rookie of the Year being selected 1st team AHL All-Star 2013-14. While he’s crucial to the Hogs success this season, what he will bring to the Blackhawks? He excels on the power plays, something desperately needed.
Joakim Nordstrom, Center, finished with the Hogs last season 58 GP, 17-16-33 and 16 GP, 1-2-3, with the Blackhawks, even playing in seven games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After the 2014-15 season he’s expected to become a restricted free agent. He had a nine-game point streak for the IceHogs scoring four goals and 12 points during the span. He has speed, can also play wing and is an efficient penalty killer. Will be cheering for him as a Hog and a Blackhawk this season.
Teuvo Teravainen, Center, scored as an IceHog in his first game 4/11/14 against Milwaukee. Made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks against the Dallas Stars on 3/25/14. The 19-year-old Finland native was noticed at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship after scoring twice and had 13 assists in seven games leading Finland to a gold medal. Along with his youth, his talent is having the skills to make plays when needed and the ability to handle pressure. Give him a season and he’ll be ready to fill any holes or gaps the Blackhawks may find.
Mark McNeill, Right Wing, finished with the Hogs last season with 76 GP, 18-19-37. The 21-year-old, 6’2”, 218-pound player has the drive to block shots and kill penalties. Again, a much-needed asset. Beginning with the Hogs as a Center, McNeill transitioned to a right-wing during his first professional season with Rockford. Give him another season to channel his size and strength and he’s just what the Blackhawks ordered.
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Klas Dahlbeck, Defenseman, finished with the Hogs last season with 75 GP 10-25-35 and is the current IceHogs’ all-time leader in plus/minus having a plus 32 rating in 145 games. He has been impressive in his last two seasons in the AHL. Hopefully his size, defensive ability of shutting down an opponent, and good passing skills will benefit the Hogs one more season. Definitely like to see him play as a Blackhawk.
Phillip Denault, Center, finished this season with the Hogs with 72 GP, 6-20-26 in a penalty-killing role on a third line. He is being compared to the Blackhawks fourth-line center Marcus Kruger, also a penalty-killer and former Hog. He’s most certainly a positive within any lineup because of his ability to play defensively and offensively.
Stephen Johns, Defenseman, played his first professional game on 4/4/14 and the following day scored his first professional goal and point at Abbotsford. During the 2012-13 Notre Dame season he played all 41 games for the Irish, where he was captain. In 162 games he had 15 goals, 57 points and 300 penalty minutes. A very physical player, his size, 6’4” and 215 pounds, along with his leadership abilities are definitely a plus. Who knows, maybe he can be a captain candidate for the Hogs?
Ryan Hartman, Right Wing and fellow Illinoisan, knows his way to the goal. He has six multi-goal games under his stick including a hat-trick on 1/12/13 against the Erie Otters. While playing with the Whalers he finished second in points. He scored 16 points in 10 games. At 19 years old, he’s aggressive, can play all three forward positions, defends, and can provide huge body checks.
Having this talent, as well as with the rest of the roster, along with the added depth in front of the goal should make for an exciting season. The Rockford IceHogs are definitely due for playoffs.