Blackhawks Prospects

Chicago Blackhawks Prospects: Newest IceHogs Show Late-Season Promise

Apr 6, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view outside of United Center before the game between Harvard Crimson and Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view outside of United Center before the game between Harvard Crimson and Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh faces are showing potential for the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs

Wednesday night, the Rockford IceHogs — affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks — and Milwaukee Admirals clashed for the second time in three games as the American Hockey League regular season winds to a close.

For the Admirals, staying away from injuries is key as they prepare for the Calder Cup Playoffs. For the IceHogs, giving newly signed prospects a chance to show what they got is the game plan as Rockford has been eliminated from Calder Cup Playoff contention for some time now.

In what was mostly a sloppy game on both sides of the ice, the Admirals were able to come away with a 2-1 victory thanks to two first-period goals from Vladislav Kamenev and Yakov Trenin, the latter being an amazing top-shelf backhand by Trenin that no goalie could stop.

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Tyler Motte tallied a late third-period goal to make it interesting with less than six minutes to play, but the comeback wouldn’t be in the cards for the IceHogs.

The bigger storyline for the IceHogs on Wednesday night, and what it has been for the past week or so, has been the addition of Chicago Blackhawks draft picks and NCAA/CHL prospects joining Rockford and stepping up and contributing right away at the professional level.

How are the new guys doing?

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Four Blackhawks draft picks have been signed to ATO’s (amateur tryout contracts) in the last month for the IceHogs, as Anthony Louis, Matheson (Matt) Iacopelli, Luc Snuggerud and Radovan Bondra have all joined the club since March 14.

Louis and Snuggerud both have 11 games under their belt so far, while Iacopelli has six AHL games to his name and Bondra has been in Rockford for three games. In their short times at the AHL level, though, all have impressed to some degree after making their first jump to the professional ranks.

Iacopelli has been able to tally four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in his six games. Snuggerud also has four points (4 assists) to his name with the IceHogs. Louis has tallied a goal and an assist in his 11 games, while Bondra has yet to get on the scoresheet in his three appearances. But it’s more than just getting on the scoresheet for these young players, and for the IceHogs at this point in time.

After the game, IceHogs coach Ted Dent spoke about the coaching mentality with the number of new players coming in:

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"We’re trying to play the younger guys and put them into positions to get some ice time where we might not normally do that, if we were pushing and playing to win games to where we needed the points. You know, Bondra, Louis, Snuggs and Iacopelli, we’re just trying to get them into a position where they get what it feels like to play in the AHL."

Speaking with Louis, Iacopelli and Snuggerud after the game as well, it was understood their main focus is making a good impression in the short time they have remaining this season while not trying to do too much.

Louis spoke about the transition from the college game to the pro ranks:

"It’s been a big difference. It’s a lot faster and guys are smarter, so you have to pay a simpler game than in college. I’ve learned that so far and I’m just trying to take baby steps as I go and get ready for next year."

Louis also spoke on being an Illinois native and getting to grow in the Blackhawks and IceHogs organizations:

"I’ve followed the Blackhawks my whole life, so it’s been a great opportunity for me and it’s a dream come true to take another step toward my end goal. I just want to keep taking steps forward to keep that a possibility for me down the road.I’ve seen guys that I’ve played with over the years like Motter, Hartzy (Rayn Hartman), Vinnie (Vinnie Hinostroza) and Schmaltzy (Nick Schmaltz) all get chances, and it gives me more confidence seeing guys I grew up with making the most of their opportunities and use them as role models to keep playing my game, play hard every game and to not take a day off."

Snuggerud talked about the kind of atmosphere you see coming fresh into a locker room so late in the season:

"Through different camps, I knew a few of the younger guys here, and the older guys have been great. They welcomed me here and are helping me with any thing I need. It’s a great group of guys and they’ve been great to me.It’s always tough to play on a new team, especially this late in the season. I just try to come in and play my game, play hard and earn every shift so I earn whatever I get out there. Just want to come and fit in with the guys, not stick out and be nice to everyone. They’ve been great since I got here."

Iacopelli spoke to the recent change in mindset for the Blackhawks and the new commitment to a “youth movement” they have made:

"Obviously, there are huge opportunities. You come here to Rockford and you produce and play well, that’s going to catch their eye. Some players get the call and go up and play and it’s an amazing experience, but as of now it’s just staying here, playing my game and doing well here to see if those opportunities present themselves."

The Blackhawks begin their run for a seventh Stanley Cup in franchise history on Thursday night as they begin their series with the Nashville Predators. The IceHogs have just two games remaining on Friday and Saturday night as they take on the Admirals once more and then finish the year against the Iowa Wild.

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For players like Louis, Snuggerud, Bondra and Iacopelli, those games become their final two auditions heading into the offseason as the winds of change will once again be sweeping through Rockford and Chicago in the summer with the NHL expansion draft and the ever-present salary cap crunch looming overhead. But that is for the future Blackhawks to worry about.