The Rockford IceHogs’s AHL playoff run is a more than a consolation prize for Chicago Blackhawks fans. The young talent there is learning how to win.
When the Chicago Blackhawks fell out of NHL playoff contention this year, they sent down several of their young players to the Rockford IceHogs to bolster their AHL playoff run. But the benefit is twofold as these young players will gain valuable experience in high-stakes hockey.
Returning to Rockford were Matthew Highmore, Victor Ejdsell, David Kampf, Andreas Martinsen and Jean-Francois Berube. In the 11 games so far, Highmore has scored six points on two goals and four asists. Ejdsell has scored eight points on five goals and three assists with a phenomenal shot percentage of 38.5. Kampf has yet to hit the scoresheet. Martinsen has five points on two goals and three assists. Berube has not yet played.
The impressive statistic though, is that the IceHogs have posted a record of eight wins and three losses, including two series sweeps.
Playing the right way
The latest five returnees reunited with former ‘Hawks players Lance Bouma, Cody Franson, Tanner Kero, John Hayden, Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling. Martinsen, Bouma and Franson are no youngsters and are providing leadership under first-year coach Jeremy Colliton.
In past seasons, the ‘Hawks would drain the IceHogs of talent by recalling players for the NHL playoffs. This season is a different story, with the IceHogs sporting a roster with a healthy mix of veterans and prospects. In addition to these players, Tyler Sikura, Luke Johnson and Darren Raddysh are gaining experience and confidence. Raddysh was just signed to an entry-level contract.
The result is an impressive playoff presence so far.
Another big difference is Colliton. Once a second-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, his NHL career was cut short by injuries. As a 33-year-old coach, he can easily relate to both the young prospects and the older players who are frustrated with the AHL demotions. He also brings a more aggressive style of play in contrast to former head coach Ted Dent.
For a defensively challenged team, the Blackhawks should enjoy seeing their young defensemen playing a tighter gap and reaping the benefits.
A real powerplay
Blackhawks fans should take notice of this impressive statistic. The IceHogs’ powerplay has been fun to watch. Their zone entries have been clean, their passes short and precise, and they move to create high-level scoring chances. These are the traits that were absent from the Blackhawks’ powerplay this season.
Let’s make a deal
The loss of Corey Crawford was an obvious lethal blow to the ‘Hawks season. None of the backups — Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and Berube — ever distinguished themselves as “The Guy” to take the helm. The little-known Collin Delia was even called up to get an NHL look. The taste of the NHL must of have been rather delicious, as Delia has been tearing it up in Rockford.
As The Athletic’s Cat Silverman writes, his progress this season has been nothing short of impressive. In the AHL playoffs, Delia has posted a record of 7-3 with a GAA of 2.32 and a save percentage of .924. This is yet another positive coming from the farm.
The Blackhawks’ offseason will present them with numerous possibilities. First there will be the NHL draft, then free agency, prospect camp and training camp. They and their fans can feel a little better knowing that some very good possibilities are brewing over in Rockford.