Alas, there will be no June hockey for the Blackhawks this year. That honor is saved for better teams in 2020-21. Chicago isn’t the only organization heading into the off-season, and their AHL affiliate in Rockford is done as well.
Years past, the Rockford IceHogs may not have appeared to have been as newsworthy as they should be. The current rebuild for the Chicago Blackhawks changes that. The youth movement that started in 2020-21 will give Rockford a different kind of significance, and fans should keep track of what’s happening with the IceHogs.
On Sunday, May 16, Rockford released an article for fans to keep track of what’s happening with the team’s roster with an eye toward the 2021-22 season. There are two lists of players, those that are UFA, as well as those under contract and eligible to suit up for Rockford next year. (Player eligibility for Rockford includes players under contract with the IceHogs, not just Chicago.) Of the UFA players, only Brandon Pirri, and only for a single game. A lot of the UFAs probably won’t be back next year, since there is already almost an entire team’s worth of people under contract for 2021-22.
There’s a good chance that most of the players under contract will be playing in Rockford around next year, including Nicolas Beaudin who wasn’t on Rockford’s list. A few of them might be in Chicago, but it wouldn’t be shocking. What’s more, there are other players, such as Evan Barratt, that will probably be called up to the Blackhawks for a game or two in 2021-22.
With Chicago having signed Arvid Soderblom, the goalie logjam might be even more complicated than it first appeared to be than what it looked like when the 2020-21 season ended. Matt Tomkins is UFA, and there just might not be room for him in the lineup anymore. Chicago will have to decide on what to do in the net, but it’s hard not to see the team letting go a couple of players.
Between Chicago and Rockford, there will be a lot of roster changes, excluding anything that might be happening with Nikita Zadorov, but the IceHogs are the future of the Blackhawks. Any fan that wants to see how things are going, should keep an eye on Rockford. There’s no doubt that Chicago is going to stockpile high-end talent in the AHL in coming years. CapFriendly shows players like Alec Regula, Ian Mitchell, and Nicolas Beaudin all have two-way deals. Whether or not it’s the best option, they’ll probably start in Rockford just to make sure there’s room on the roster in Chicago for the veterans.
As Covid-19 measures are scaled back, hopefully, next year will be a normal season. Cross your fingers! If that happens, then Rockford should boast a fairly strong group of young talent as Chicago tries to raise the bar and set itself up to be a more competitive team, again.