Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued to play winning hockey this week, earning five of a possible six points against Central Division opponents. Rockford sits in fourth place in the division standings, thanks to several hot players.

At the top of that list is Brett Connolly, who is riding a six-game point streak. Connolly posted four goals and a pair of assists in three games. This included two-goal efforts in consecutive games; Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Manitoba and Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa.

Dylan McLaughlin returned after missing the last month with a concussion, notching four points over the weekend. After helping send Friday’s game into Gus Macker Time with assists on both of Rockford’s third period goals, the forward added a goal and a helper in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Moose at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The story of Saturday’s victory was a 38-save performance by goalie Mitch Gillam, signed to a PTO by the IceHogs on Thursday. Gillam, who has spent this season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, blanked Manitoba in his first career AHL start. Cale Morris is nursing a sore hip at the moment. Tom Aubrun was loaned to the Fuel Thursday.

Rookie Lukas Reichel had his five-game point streak snapped on Saturday. With four goals and four assists in that span, Reichel remains on top of Rockford’s goals (20) and points (46) list.

With 16 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks top prospect is approaching two rookie marks. Namely, Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51 points, set in 2015-16, and Matthew Highmore’s 24 goals, accomplished in the 2017-28 campaign.

 

Roster News

With the Hawks trade of Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday, Collin Delia was recalled by Chicago, along with forward Reese Johnson. Morris was recalled by the IceHogs as well. Defenseman Alex Vlasic was assigned to Rockford long enough for him to be eligible for the AHL playoffs before returning to Chicago.

On Saturday, forwards Riley McKay and Chad Yetman were recalled to Rockford. Yetman skated in that night’s game for the IceHogs.

On the injury front, Michal Teply suffered a shoulder injury Wednesday night after being boarded by Manitoba captain Jimmy Oligny late in the third period. Hogs captain Garrett Mitchell jumped in for a bout with Oligny and is now day-to-day with a lower back injury.

 

Busy Piglets

Rockford will now enter a stretch of five games over the next eight days. This starts with a big home date with Milwaukee Tuesday. The Hogs will then head West for two games each with Tucson and Henderson. Rockford takes on the Roadrunners on Friday and Saturday, then tangles with the Silver Knights on April 4 and 5.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Everything Else

As the weekend wore on, I sold myself more and more on the Kirby Dach pick. We’ll never know, but my hope is at #3 the Hawks wouldn’t ever pick for need. Those picks come around maybe once or twice a decade (unless you’re the Oilers), and you take the best player on your board. If for the Hawks that was Dach, fine. Any argument for Turcotte there seems equal to me as Dach at this point, and at least Dach was playing in the realest junior league. He also seems to have a higher ceiling, and I’m always here for guys who make the game look easy, as Dach does, than go-go-motor guys like Turcotte kept being advertised as. That “making it look easy” can easily devolve into just remaining on the perimeter and fading into the background of games, which is why the Getzlaf comparisons are frightening. It’s up to the Hawks to make sure that doesn’t happen.

But what bothers me about the whole drafting policy is that it seems a whole new sense of direction, and a dumb one at that. We’re only two years removed from THAT press conference after the Predators had left tire tracks all over the Hawks where Stan Bowman definitely wrestled total control of personnel from Quenneville and his cronies, and promised that this team would and had to get faster. Saad-for-Panarin didn’t really make the Hawks faster, but you could see the logic (only kind of). Murphy-for-Hammer did make them more mobile on the blue line.

And their draft kind of reflected it. Jokiharju is hardly big and is supposedly mobile, though I haven’t really seen that yet. Ian Mitchell is definitely mobile. Altybarmarkyan is small and fast. Evan Barrat isn’t even that quick and he’s small too. Same goes for Tim Soderlund.

Last year’s offseason moves are barely worth talking about, because all it really included was Bowman spiking Q with Brandon Manning. But signings like Kampf (admittedly earlier) and Kahun and other Euro signings stuck to the “getting quicker” theme. And at the draft it was Boqvist, Beaudin, Kurashev. All meant to get to playing at a quicker pace in the future, especially from the back end. They even reached on Boqvist to do that.

And now we’re here. Dach at #3, Vlasic at #43, who just happens to be 6-5 with skating concerns. Michal Teply is 6-3, and he doesn’t have the skating worries that Vlasic does but the “good speed for his size” doesn’t make you think he’s a burner.

This goes along with the rumors that the Hawks are hot after Anders Lee, who is a good player and has a fit here but is also something of a big plodder. So has there been a gear shift? And why?

The why you know, even if it is complete horseshit. I don’t know how the Hawks could buy into the theory that the Bruins and Blues grunted and farted their way to the Final through the use of viking warlords or something. Here’s the Blues top players from the playoffs, and that’s even if you think you should be using a team that missed the playoffs last year and then got sweetheart matchups all the way to the Final as some sort of model:

Schwartz, Schenn, Tarasenko, O’Reilly, Perron, Pietrangelo, and Parayko.

I guess Pietrangelo and Parayko are big and the latter plays like it, but where are these crushers at forward? Do the Hawks really think Pat Goddamn Maroon is such a difference maker they need like four of him.

Now the Bruins:

Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, Krejci, McAvoy, Krug, Grzelcyk.

Chara was a fucking anchor all playoffs. Where are the monsters here as far as size? Back it out to the conference finals and you have the Canes, who simply battered Lee’s Islanders, and the Sharks. Again, where are the heathen hordes on those teams? Or on the Lightning, who did manage to be one of of the best teams ever in the much larger sample size of the regular season?

I don’t know where the Hawks think they’re going to go by getting slower. What are you going to do about Colorado on the five nights you’re lining up against MacKinnon, Rantanen, Makar, Byram, and Girard? If Nashville does sign Duchene, he is pretty damn quick if nothing else. Did Winnipeg lose speed? You’re still trying to catch up to all these teams, and you’re going to do it with Anders Lee and Olli Maatta?

Having your finger in the wind isn’t a plan, and maybe that’s why the Hawks have told you they don’t have a plan.

-The Hawks were making it seem like they really want Dach to take a spot this season, though most experts think that’s a stretch The thing is, they can shelter him just about as well as any team could. A center at 18, you’d want to keep him at the offensive end as often as possible. Which means you’d have to have Kampf and Toews take most of the defensive zone shifts. And you can do that, but is that what Toews is anymore? He could do it, but you’d lose a fair amount of offense from him because he’s no longer the guy who can continually flip the ice. Maybe he’s got one more year of doing that in him, but I’m skeptical.

And who would Toews do that with? Saad in theory, but then who? Would be a waste of Kane (and don’t be surprised if you never see Kane and Saad on a line together ever again) or DeBrincat. Is that what Lee would be for? That involves flipping Saad over to the right, which he’s never really taken to. It’s an odd fit, though I guess you could scratch it out.

Then one wonders who plays with Dach. Kane? You want shooters with Kane, and Dach isn’t that. Just give him Kubalik and like, Sikura and shelter them as heavily as possible?

The problem for Dach might not be what he can do, but what the Hawks can give him. Still, I find it hard to believe that there’s that much benefit from beating up on children he’s already played with for another season, and because the AHL isn’t an option you might as well keep him here. At least show some urgency. You just said it’s not like you’re waiting for him to grow.