Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs came out of their first three-game weekend with a pair of victories and five of six possible points. However, that success was tempered a bit with two more injuries that are keeping a lot of Rockford skaters in street clothes.

The piglets sit in fourth place in the Central Division standings. Rockford defeated first-place Milwaukee on Friday before splitting a home-and-home with second place Iowa.

 

Add Snuggerud To The List Of Injured Hogs

Defenseman Luc Snuggerud hasn’t seen a lot of ice time this season. Saturday night, the second-year pro made his first appearance since October 20 in Tucson. Early in the second period, former Rockford forward Mike Liambas delivered a bit hit in the corner of the Hogs zone that sent Snuggerud to the ice unconscious.

First off, it was a completely legal hit. Liambas, who was not penalized on the play, doesn’t shy away from finishing checks. That said, both players were chasing a puck in the corner and Liambas planted his shoulder squarely into the chest of Snuggerud. Snuggerud’s head slammed into the glass and the young man was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Snuggerud missed time last season after suffering a concussion, so it is very concerning to see him leave the ice like that. He was hospitalized for observation and sent home Sunday, though it’s hard to say when he’ll be back in action.

There are several players missing from the IceHogs lineup. The defense, in particular, has been hit hard, with four players out of commission in the wake of Snuggerud’s injury. Veteran Andrew Campbell left Saturday’s game with a leg issue when Snuggerud was taken off. He didn’t return and did not skate on Sunday.

Already among the injured were defensemen Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling. Both players are suffering from groin injuries. Forwards Matthew Highmore and Jordan Schroeder were also unavailable this weekend.

To bolster the blueline corps, Rockford recalled AHL signees Josh McArdle and Neil Manning from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Both played on Sunday in Iowa as Colliton used all seven of his defensemen in the contest.

 

No Response

Tim Mattila, who was providing commentary with Joseph Zakrzewski on the Hogs broadcast, had this to say on the play that knocked out Snuggerud:

“I thought it was a clean hit, A, but, B, old school, somebody takes that guy out and does their thing, in my opinion,” he said. “That’s old school; that’s not the way it is anymore, but somebody would have challenged that guy, whoever it was that hit him, to a fight. Immediately. But that’s not the way it is nowadays.”

Moments later, Mattila again voiced his opinion on the hit, adding, “I don’t want to reiterate the fact…typically, someone would have taken care of somebody’s business there.”

Mattila’s comments were spot on; there was a time when it would not have come as a shock to see an IceHogs player come off the bench to dance, suspension be damned. I have no doubt Liambas would have obliged anyone who wished to discuss business with him.

In defense of the piglets, there seemed to be more concern for how Snuggerud was than getting in the face of Liambas, a longtime veteran with 87 AHL scraps under his belt.

It should also be pointed out that fighting is not Rockford’s thing; none of the current crop of IceHogs possess the skills to routinely drop gloves with any opponent. You may consider this a good thing or a bad thing; it is simply a fact.

Later in this contest, Henrik Samuelsson laid a check on Iowa’s Colton Beck and was immediately engaged by Wild defenseman Louis Belpedio. It was Belpedio’s first pro fight, though the two mostly jostled for position before being separated.

Snuggerud’s injury was not caused by Rockford’s lack of pugilistic fortitude. The IceHogs are not built to fight. They’re built to skate, so that’s what they do.

 

Spotlight On The Stat Sheet

One player who stepped up to lead the depleted back end was Darren Raddysh, who is now second on the team in points with nine. He got on the score sheet in both Rockford wins this weekend. Friday saw the second-year pro contribute a pair of goals. He tied the game in the third period in Milwaukee, then tossed in the game-winner against the Ads.

Also logging a three-point weekend was Dylan Sikura, who paces the Hogs with ten points (4 G, 6 A). Sikura the Younger has points in seven of Rockford’s first twelve games.

The team leader in goals, with six, is Anthony Louis, who had three in the two games with Iowa Saturday and Sunday. His goal at the BMO Saturday tied the game and earned the Hogs a point despite coming up short in the shootout.

 

Recaps

Work commitments kept me out of the basement most of the weekend. Maybe not the worst thing for me, but no lines this week.

 

Friday, November 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

The Hogs earned two points at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, thanks in part to a pair of goals from Darren Raddysh.

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead 14:o2 into the game on Zach Magwood’s first pro goal, a snipe from the right dot that got by the glove of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg. Rockford was quick to tie the score after killing off an Ads power play.

Jacob Nilsson, in the bin of sin for a hook, came back onto the ice as the penalty expired and was greeted by a loose puck skidding into the neutral zone. He skated hard to the Milwaukee net only to have his backhand attempt broken up. A persistent Nilsson chased down the puck behind the net, skated to the corner and hit Dylan Sikura at the bottom of the right circle. Sikura buried the puck past Admirals goalie Tom McCullom for the equalizer at 16:59 of the first.

Magwood’s one-timer from between the circles gave Milwaukee a 2-1 advantage 4:20 into the second period. Rockford, who spent a lot of time killing penalties on the evening, went to the locker room down a goal.

The IceHogs killed off three more penalties in the third, stopping all seven Milwaukee power plays on the evening. Rockford tied the game on a Darren Raddysh blast from the right point at 12:08 after Nilsson brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and dropped a pass to the second-year defenseman.

Gus Macker Time was pretty eventful after neither team could settle things in regulation. Terry Broadhust was defending Admirals forward Anthony Richard two minutes into extra hockey when Richard stumbled head first into the half boards. It appeared that Richard had either caught a rut in the ice or taken a stick to the shins. No penalty was called on the play; Richard skated off to the locker room  and the game continued.

Lucas Carlsson broke up a Milwaukee 2-on-1 to set up the game winner. The Hogs brought the puck back into the Ads zone, where Raddysh was hooked by Colin Blackwell. Rockford sent an extra skater into the fray on the delayed penalty.

Fittingly, Raddysh one-timed a shot from the left dot moments later to end the game in favor of the IceHogs. The goal came at 3:33 of overtime.

Forsberg stopped 22 of 24 Milwaukee shots to pick up the win. Magwood earned First Star honors from the home press box, followed by Raddysh and Anthony Louis. The IceHogs went 0-5 on the power play, but stopped all seven Milwaukee power play chances.

 

Saturday, November 3-Iowa 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford skated with an abbreviated blueline for the bulk of the night but still managed to come out of the game with a point. Collin Delia stopped all but one of the 42 shots the Wild heaped on him.

The Wild’s only goal in regulation came just 1:51 into the game when a Brennan Menell offering slipped through traffic to the back of the IceHogs net. Rockford trailed 1-0 after the first twenty minutes.

Early in the second period, Luc Snuggerud took a hit in the corner of the Wild zone from Iowa’s Mike Liambas. His head slammed into the glass as he went down and the second-year defenseman was stretchered off the ice. As that was taking place, Andrew Campbell also skated to the locker room.

Despite having just four defensemen available the rest of the way, the IceHogs stayed in the contest. Rockford tied the game late in the second after Tyler Sikura won a battle for the puck along the half boards in neutral ice.

Sikura passed to Henrik Samuelsson as he entered the Iowa zone. Samuelsson skated to the doorstep before backhanding a pass to Anthony Louis as he came down the right side. Louis back-doored Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen at 17:01 of the second.

The score remained 1-1 through regulation and overtime; Delia stopped 19 Iowa shots in that span. The Wild fared better in the shootout, as Sam Anas and Gerry Fitzgerald converted in the first two rounds. Kahkonen stopped Viktor Ejdsell and Louis to close out the contest.

Both teams had four power plays on the night. Neither team could cash in on any of them.

 

Sunday, November 4-Rockford 4, Iowa 2

Rockford got a pair of goals in a 1:05 span in the opening period. The first was set up by Dennis Gilbert, who broke up an entry pass attempt by the Wild. Darren Raddysh collected the puck and made a stretch pass to Viktor Ejdsell. In the resulting 2-on-1, Ejdsell fed Dylan Sikura for the lamp lighter at 7:29 of the first.

Shortly thereafter, Anthony Louis pounced on an Iowa turnover along the half boards near the red line and skated the puck into the Wild zone. He fired from the left dot past the glove of Iowa goalie Andrew Hammond for a 2-0 Hogs advantage at the 8:34 mark.

The Wild got the next two goals of the game. Matt Bartkowski finished a 3-on-1 rush at 11:54 of the first. Later, on a Wild man advantage, Ryan Kloos sent a wrister from the slot than sneaked under the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg 3:52 into the second period.

Rockford regained the lead on a power play goal. Jacob Nilsson potted his first of the season, putting back a rebound of a Lucas Carlsson point shot. The goal came at 16:44 of the period and made it 3-2 Hogs going into the second intermission.

The Hogs failed to build on the lead despite a couple of power play chances in the third period, but Forsberg kept Iowa at bay for the remainder of the game. The Wild pulled Hammond in the final minutes, leading to Louis denting the empty net for his second goal of the night.

Forsberg made 31 stops on the evening to pick up his second win of the season. Nilsson was the game’s first star, followed by Cal O’Reilly of the Wild and Louis.

The power play was one-for-six on the night, while the Wild was one-for-five.

 

Good Morning, Sunshine

Rockford faces off with the Wild for the third game in a row when they host Iowa Wednesday morning at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Then, the Hogs are off on their longest road trek of the 2017-18 campaign. The six-game jaunt gets underway Friday and Saturday with visits to Milwaukee and Chicago.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates, news and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

With the prospects finishing up action in the Traverse City Tournament this week, the time has arrived to get cracking on the developing scene down Rockford way. Opening night for the IceHogs is less than a month away, believe it or not. Who will be skating for the piglets in 2018-19. Let’s see if we can figure that out.

I’m pleased as punch to be bringing you glimpses of the Blackhawks future from my seat at the BMO for another season. Rockford is coming off a memorable post-season run. Like a year ago, the IceHogs look to be filled with young talent that should be interesting to watch nightly.

Once again, don’t look for a lot of grizzled veteran faces under those helmets. Most of the catalysts from the team that reached the AHL’s Western Conference Final are long gone. There are holdovers from that squad, to be sure. That includes a lot of second and third-year players trying to take the next step in their careers.

The coaching staff is intact for another go; head coach Jeremy Colliton earned stellar marks for his efforts in his debut with the Hogs. Colliton is again joined by assistants Derek King (back for his third season in Rockford) and Sheldon Brookbank (year two with the IceHogs).

Colliton emphasized a high-energy game that proved to be exiting to watch. The IceHogs played at a rapid pace and could be counted on to turn in a 60-minute effort. Colliton will be looking to keep moving Hawks prospects toward NHL-level readiness.

With the lower half of Chicago’s roster comprised of inexpensive contracts, it is very likely that several players could yo-yo along I-90 in 2018-19. Looking up and down the organization, I have identified players who could be with Rockford for at least a portion of the campaign.

I could re-hash the feel good season that went down a year hence; I will steer you here instead for all the juicy details. I also re-capped the play of the goalies, defense, and forwards earlier this summer if you want the low down. Pressing onward, let’s see what the roster could resemble in a few weeks.

 

Forward

Camp Decisions-Viktor Ejdsell, John Hayden, Tyler Sikura, Jordan Schroeder, Andreas Martinsen. Matthew Highmore

The first four names on this list are currently on the Hawks roster (per capfriendly.com). I would imagine that the bottom four or five spots are up for grabs. Some of these forwards will move back and forth with some regularity between Chicago and Rockford.

Schroeder and Martinsen will have to clear waivers at some point to be assigned to Rockford. Depending on any moves made by the organization, most of the players above will don the Hammy Head sweater for a stretch or two.

Ejdsell was very impressive for Rockford in the postseason, while Highmore was the team’s most successful rookie for much of the first half of last year. Martinsen was a steady veteran producer for the Hogs but could find himself in a fourth-line role for Chicago with his size and physical style.

I imagine that Schroeder will be in Rockford more often than not, provided he passes through waivers. You’d think Hayden would be able to stick in Chicago full-time, but like several other Hawks prospects he may come down for seasoning or a confidence boost.

 

Key Returnees-Luke Johnson, Anthony Louis

Johnson’s second season in Rockford was a decided improvement over his rookie year. He took on a leadership role as well as any of the young guys and nearly doubled his point production. He has the makings of a solid two-way NHL forward and might be ready to fill a bottom-six role with another solid performance for the IceHogs.

Louis was the team’s top scorer (44 points) in the regular season but seemed to take a backseat to the veterans who joined the team in the spring. He’ll begin the season on a scoring line and needs to take advantage of his play-making skills.

 

Something To Prove-Nathan Noel, Graham Knott, Matheson Iacopelli, Alexandre Fortin

These players need to make a splash early this season if they are to remain in the lineup. For one reason or another, the above foursome left a bit to be desired in their first pro seasons.

Noel’s campaign was derailed by injury and never really got the chance to show what he could do in Rockford. Fortin lacked the finishing ability that could have won him more playing time. Iacopelli had plenty of offensive clout but couldn’t find a consistent spot in the lineup.

Knott, a second-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2015, was a bit underwhelming despite playing 70 games for the IceHogs. He needs to distinguish himself at one area of his game to keep from being passed up by newer talent. Knott captained the prospects at Traverse City: maybe it’s a sign of a better showing for him in 2018-19.

 

New Faces-Dominik Kahun(?), Jacob Nilsson, Jordan Maletta

For first-year Hogs, this group has a bit of expirience. Kahun comes of of four professional seasons in Germany. He totaled 41 points (12 G, 29 A) in 42 games with EHC Munchen last season. Kahun would have to have a real change of heart to wind up in Rockford. He plans to hold Chicago to a clause that has him returning to Germany if he doesn’t crack the Hawks roster, per Scott Powers of theathletic.com.

The 24-year-old Nilsson played for Colliton in the Swedish Hockey League. Maletta had a decent rookie year with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters two years ago, then spent most of 2017-18 on the injured list.

 

Getting Out The Shovel-Marcus Kruger

The way Chicago’s roster is comprised, Kruger still looks to have a part to play. However, maybe a younger player (David Kampf, perhaps) steps into the defensive stopper role Kruger was so good at in the past. Maybe a post-hernia surgery Kruger just isn’t the same player of a few years ago. Maybe the Hawks need a little cap space to facilitate a trade.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for Chicago to get Kruger through waivers and assign him to the IceHogs. After all, Carolina sent him to the AHL last season.

 

Rockford’s AHL Signees-William Pelletier, Henrik Samuelsson, Terry Broadhurst, Brett Welychka, Radovan Bondra, Connor Moynihan

Three of these players could wind up factoring in heavily to Rockford’s fortunes this season. Most prominent on this list is Pelletier, who was a permanent fixture in Colliton’s lineup in 2017-18.

Pelletier (14 G, 15 A) was second among IceHogs forwards with a plus-13 skater rating. Despite his 5’7″ frame, he had no problem getting into the mix in the corners. His speed was a huge asset that I have to think Colliton will want on the ice as much as possible.

Samuelsson has plenty of AHL experience, as does Broadhurst, who comes aboard for his second tour with the IceHogs. Last season, Broadhurst had 32 points (13 G, 19 A) in 49 games for the Cleveland Monsters.

Bondra, who signed an AHL deal a year ago then missed the bulk of the season to injury, may have an uphill battle getting ice time in Rockford. Bondra, along with Welychka and Moynihan, will spend most of their seasons with the Indy Fuel.

Welychka is 24 and played eight games for Manitoba last spring. The 5’11” center wore a “C” for his Carleton University squad last season, picking up 12 goals and 19 assists in 28 games. Moynihan, 22, has put up nice point totals in the ECHL the past two years, including 41 points (14 G, 27 A) in 48 games with Kalamazoo last season. He was scoreless in an 11 game stint with Utica.

 

Overall Outlook At Forward

Provided that players like Highmore, Sikura, Johnson and Louis take their games up a notch, coupled with better and healthier seasons from Fortin and Noel, Rockford is perhaps a bit more talented up front than the group that began the 2017-18 season. Quick adjustments to North American rinks by Nilsson and Kahun (if he was convinced to take the assignment) could be a big x-factor for the Hogs.

 

Defense

A lot of Rockford’s 2017-18 blue line will be elsewhere this fall. Depending on how many defensemen Chicago elects to carry to start the season, Colliton could be using four or five rookies on the back end on a given night.

The defensive corps that propelled the IceHogs deep into the playoffs has been scattered to the winds. Cody Franson? Gone (KHL). Adam Clendening? Gone (Blue Jackets). Viktor Svedberg? Gone (PTO with Calgary).

At this point, I would think Carl Dahlstrom is in the mix for a roster spot in Chicago. Gustav Forsling isn’t due back from surgery until at least November. Robin Norell was loaned out to Djurgårdens IF of the Swedish Hockey League last month.

Introducing…the defense.

 

The Mentor-Andrew Campbell

The 30-year-old journeyman has ten seasons of professional experience under his belt. Most of that has been spent in AHL rinks with Manchester, Portland, Toronto and Tuscon. He has 43 games played in the NHL, most recently with the Maple Leafs in 2015-16.

Campbell was a part of this summer’s trade of Marian Hossa and all the folks that were included in said deal. His role should be very well defined in Rockford. He will likely spend the entire season helping to raise a full littler of piglets.

He should be well-equipped to handle a leadership role for Colliton. Campbell has worn a C for three different clubs. He isn’t a big offensive threat, though he did have a couple of 20-point seasons for the Marlies a few seasons ago.

Campbell plays a steady game and can use his 6’4″, 207-pound frame in a physical manner when needed. He rarely drops the gloves (13 AHL scraps in ten seasons), but that isn’t a factor considering Rockford did fine without a pugilist last season. I am not analyzing this move from the perspective of Campbell’s usefulness to the Hawks. As an AHL veteran leader, he more that fits the bill.

 

Back End Holdovers-Carl Dahlstrom, Luc Snuggerud, Darren Raddysh, Gustav Forsling

If Dahlstrom somehow winds up in Rockford for a third full season, good for the Hogs. The way the depth chart looks on defense, however, I don’t see how he doesn’t occupy at least the seventh d-man spot in Chicago. As previously mentioned, Forsling won’t be in action for a few months.

That leaves two Hogs coming off their rookie seasons. Raddysh, who was a regular in the lineup and saw action in the playoffs, and Snuggerud, who wasn’t…and didn’t.

To be fair, Snuggerud was injured for several stretches and did put up 17 points (5 G, 12 A) in the 40 games in which he played. A healthy 2018-19 could see him take on a bigger presence for Rockford.

Raddysh, who earned an NHL entry contract for his efforts last year, and Snuggerud will have competition for playing time, with all the rookies joining the organization.

 

Rockford Rooks-Joni Tuulola, Dennis Gilbert, Blake Hillman, Lucas Carlsson, Henri Jokiharju

Training camp should reveal if any of these players crack the Hawks roster. For now, I will assume that all five will be in Hogs sweaters come October.

Rockford fans got a look at Tuulola at the close of last season. He also skated in four playoff games for the Hogs.

Gilbert (Notre Dame) and Hillman (Denver) arrive from the college ranks. Carlsson crosses the pond after time in the Swedish Hockey League. Jokiharju put up 71 points (12 G, 59 A) for Portland in juniors; I am laboring under the impression that he is eligible to play AHL hockey despite his age.

 

Rockford’s AHL Signees-Josh McArdle, Neil Manning

With all the new prospects on defense, Norell was not going to get much in the way of playing time. For the third and final year of his entry contract, Norell will skate in Europe.

There won’t be much room for the two defensemen the Hogs signed, either. Most of their skating will be done in ECHL rinks for the Indy Fuel.

Manning, 27,  has two years of pro experience in Italy after a four-year college career at the University of British Columbia.

McArdle, who hails from Rockton, Illinois and skated in the Junior IceHogs program, was signed following his college career. The 24-year-old McArdle was the team captain for Brown last season. It would be fun for the BMO faithful to see him skate a few games for the Hogs, plus he’s a right-handed shot (see below).

 

Overall Outlook At Defense

Unlike the last few seasons, this is not going to be an experienced group. Nor will there be many right-handed shots (Raddysh and Jokiharju by my count). Young defensemen tend to make mistakes. The positioning and decision-making learning curves will dictate how well Rockford performs on this side of the puck.

 

Goalie

Here’s where things get interesting. So much of the picture hinges on the availability of Corey Crawford. If, as many speculate, the Hawks number-one net-minder is not ready for training camp, the organizational pecking order is pretty clear, if not entirely settling.

If Crow is ready to roll, the Hogs tandem will be in question.

With Crawford and Cam Ward the planned-upon pair in Chicago, one would wager that Anton Forsberg begins the season with the IceHogs. To do this, he would have to clear waivers.

It would be easy to forecast Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen as the Hogs goalies heading into the season. If Forsberg winds up in Rockford, however, there are two ways for things to go down:

  1. Rockford carries three goalies on its roster.
  2. Either Delia or Lankinen is sent to Indy for steady playing time.

I guess Chicago could carry three goalies (Crawford, Ward and Forsberg) and the Delia-Lankinen alliance go proceed as scheduled. (Crazy thought: would it be completely insane to think Crawford could be sent to Rockford at some point for a conditioning assignment if he isn’t ready for camp?) That also means that the Hogs would be assigned another player to make room for the extra goalie.

Barring injury or trade, the only sure things I see are Ward with the Hawks and Matt Tomkins (Rockford’s AHL signee) in Indy to man the pipes for the Fuel.

Should Forsberg be assigned to Rockford, the Hogs will have a more-than-capable AHL goalie. That is, so long as his attitude is right following what amounts to a demotion.

Delia could be looking at 40-50 starts in net for the IceHogs if things break his way. Last spring, he was very good. His challenge is to maintain his late-season standards for a full slate of games. Delia is also likely to be fending off higher-percentage shots due in part to a less-experienced defense in front of him. If he can accomplish this, his stock in the organization should continue to rise.

Lankinen, 23, was signed to an entry deal this spring. He posted a 1.33 GAA for HIFK Helisinki in the Finnish Ligua after returning from an injury. The Hogs net could be without at least one veteran presence for the first time in a good while.

 

Outlook In Goal

With no Michael Leighton or Jeff Glass to lend a steady glove between the pipes, Colliton will need to establish the confidence of both his young goalies. Consistency may be the biggest hurdle for whatever combination of players Rockford showcases in net.

 

I’ll save my predictions for the season for next month when the roster picture clears up. It’s safe to say that right now, the IceHogs will be a prospect-loaded bunch comparable to last season’s group.

Get yourself ready for my many takes on the happenings in Rockford this season by following me @JonFromi on twitter. I’ll try to keep you abreast of transactions and upcoming opponents throughout the piglets journey through the next eight or nine months.