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Analysis

Rockford IceHogs Are More Exciting Than The Chicago Blackhawks

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CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 19: Rockford IceHogs left wing Matthew Highmore (9) is congratulated by Rockford IceHogs defenceman Adam Clendening (2), Rockford IceHogs center Luke Johnson (37), and Rockford IceHogs defenceman Ville Pokka (29) after scoring a goal during the third period of the American Hockey League game between the Rockford IceHogs and Cleveland Monsters on January 19, 2018, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. Rockford defeated Cleveland 4-3. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 19: Rockford IceHogs left wing Matthew Highmore (9) is congratulated by Rockford IceHogs defenceman Adam Clendening (2), Rockford IceHogs center Luke Johnson (37), and Rockford IceHogs defenceman Ville Pokka (29) after scoring a goal during the third period of the American Hockey League game between the Rockford IceHogs and Cleveland Monsters on January 19, 2018, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. Rockford defeated Cleveland 4-3. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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CLEVELAND, OH – JANUARY 19: Rockford IceHogs left wing Matthew Highmore (9) is congratulated by Rockford IceHogs defenceman Adam Clendening (2), Rockford IceHogs center Luke Johnson (37), and Rockford IceHogs defenceman Ville Pokka (29) after scoring a goal during the third period of the American Hockey League game between the Rockford IceHogs and Cleveland Monsters on January 19, 2018, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. Rockford defeated Cleveland 4-3. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

During the last 10 or so years, the Chicago Blackhawks have made the NHL season exciting from start to finish. But without that at fans’ disposal, they’ve turned to the Rockford IceHogs.

With the Chicago Blackhawks playing out their last  six games of the NHL season, most fans are focused on debuts of new players such as Victor Ejdsell and Dylan Sikura and not winning games.  If anything, some ‘Hawks fans are hoping for more losses because it increases the team’s chance of winning the draft lottery.

While the Blackhawks’ season is lost, the Rockford IceHogs are fighting for their playoff lives. Despite sending Andreas Martinsen and to Ejdsell to the ‘Hawks recently, the ‘Hogs still are holding on to the fourth spot in the AHL’s Central Division.

That is a vast  improvement from last season, when the ‘Hogs finished last in the Central Division. Per AHL.com, the ‘Hogs are likely to make the playoffs and most likely would play the Mantioba Moose in the first round.

First-year coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff have made the most of their opportunity to coach at the AHL level. He developed several players who have contributed to the Blackhawks season and look to be key contributors for the future of the Blackhawks.

The most recent example of this is Matthew Highmore. Highmore has two goals in 12 games with the ‘Hawks. He figures to be in contention for an NHL roster spot next season.

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Credit to Colliton and his staff for developing players who have spent more time with the Blackhawks than they did last season.

More players to watch

Here are some players you might want to follow down the stretch for the ‘Hogs.

Collin Delia. Delia has started in 23 games for Rockford. He has a 2.71 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. His numbers do not tell the whole story, as he has had flashes of brilliance this season with ‘Hogs. Here is the most recent breakdown of his play, by Cat Silverman of The Athletic.  

Anthony Louis. The smallish forward is on the second year of his entry-level contract. In his first  full season at Rockford, he has recorded 38 points with 12 goals and 26 assists.

I have been impressed with Louis since witnessing him play at Blackhawks prospect camp two seasons ago. For a small forward, he shielded himself well. While he has offensive talent, some believe he might get a chance to play in the NHL outside of the Blackhawks organization.

Tyler Sikura. The older brother of Dylan Sikura, Tyler was signed by the Blackhawks organization on an AHL contract. He has played so well with Rockford this season that he earned an NHL contract from the ‘Hawks. He has 18 goals and 14 assists on the season.

The ‘Hogs will also be getting Joni Tuulola, a sixth-round draft pick from the 2015 event who signed Monday. Recently-signed Blake Hillman figures to ink an ATO and play with Rockford as well this season.

Next: Blackhawks Set To Sign Blake Hillman

The AHL regular season ends April 15, so if you are looking for a competing postseason hockey team to follow, ‘Hawks fans should turn their eyes toward the Rockford IceHogs.

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