The Chicago Blackhawks will have a lot of NHL prospects skating for their AHL affiliate in Rockford. As the IceHogs wrapped up their training camp over the weekend, the roster has begun to take shape.
As expected, the number of young players who spent time with the 'Hawks last season take up a lot of space on the IceHogs depth chart. This group is still quite youthful but has a wealth of NHL experience from the last two seasons.
Currently, 26 players make up the current roster in Rockford. There may be a few additional moves, but here is what the IceHogs website lists as the roster at this time:
Forwards: Brandon Svensden, Phillipe Paradis, Kyle Beach, Wade Brookbank, Marcus Kruger, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Bollig, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Rob Flick, Brandon Pirri, Pete LeBlanc, Martin St. Pierre.
No real surprises here. The only reason Svensden isn't in Toledo is because he is injured and will be out of action for the next month-and-a-half. He'll rehab in Rockford and will go to Toledo when he is ready to play.
Byron Froese and Terry Broadhurst, who would have easily made this team in any other season, were sent down to Toledo on Saturday. David Gilbert was sent to Bloomington of the Central Hockey League.
Non-roster tryouts Travis Novak and Jake Trask are also with Toledo. Chris DeSousa impressed enough to get into the first two preseason games but was released from his tryout agreement.
Right now, this leaves 14 active forwards, 10 of whom have regular-season NHL experience. At least three or four will skate for the 'Hawks if and when the lockout ends.
Kruger, Hayes and Saad have been skating together on what could be a potent top line. On Saturday night in a 5-3 win over Peoria to close the preseason slate, the three combined for four goals and three assists. The other goal was notched by Bollig, who backhanded a rebound past Rivermen goalie Jake Allen.
Defense: Adam Clendening, Dylan Olsen, Ryan Stanton, Ben Youds, Joe Lavin, Nick Leddy, Shawn Lalonde, Klas Dahlbeck, Brett Lebda.
This is the area where I think we may see another move or two before the regular season commences on October 13 in Chicago.
Lebda is probably going to begin the season as an IceHog. Olsen, Stanton, Lavin and Leddy are also locks. Clendening would seem to be in this category, but he left Thursday's game with Milwaukee in the second period and didn't return. He also didn't play Saturday night.
Dahlbeck did not participate in any of the three preseason contests. Youds played over Lalonde in what looked to be a dry run for the regular season. If Clendening is going to miss a few games with whatever injury he may have, Rockford may be keeping all nine defensemen as a precaution.
Depending on Clendening's health, we could see two players assigned to Toledo soon. Lalonde, whose star has faded a bit in the organization, could be one of those players. Dahlbeck is likely the other.
Goalie: Carter Hutton, Alec Richards
The IceHogs sent Kent Simpson to Toledo on Saturday. Mac Carruth, who posted Thursday's shootout victory, returned to his junior team in Portland for his last year in the WHL.
Richards, who struggled mightily in both Rockford and Toledo last season, will be the other goalie with Hutton. This probably isn't going to be a tandem effort, which is probably why Simpson and Carruth were re-assigned.
Hutton can plan on getting the bulk of the starts for the IceHogs, who are trying to avoid missing the AHL playoffs for a third consecutive year. Richards shouldn't expect more than 20-25 starts as the clearly defined backup.
The 2012-12 AHL season gets underway this weekend with back-to-back games with the Wolves. It will be important for Rockford to get off to a good start. I will be following the IceHogs for you with regular reports both during and after the lockout.