The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, are ready for action this weekend as they get their 2013-14 season underway. Head coach Ted Dent is looking for his team to reach the playoffs after coming up short in each of the past three seasons.
The IceHogs announced their opening night roster Thursday on the team website heading into action Saturday, Oct. 5 in Texas. There are plenty of familiar prospects and some new veteran faces suiting up for Rockford.
Here's a quick look at this year's squad.
Fresh from Blackhawks' training camp are Brandon Pirri, the AHL's leading scorer last season, and Jeremy Morin. Both should see action in Chicago but will likely skate on a top line for the IceHogs.
Center Byron Froese, who spent most of last season in Toledo of the ECHL and injured, should be a contributor in Rockford. Veterans Brad Mills and Wade Brookbank also return. Terry Broadhurst is back for his second season with the team.
With Ryan Stanton gone via waivers to Vancouver, only three blue liners are back in town. Adam Clendening was an All-Star last season and is joined by Klas Dahlbeck and Dylan Olsen.
Veteran Brad Winchester is one of eight IceHogs forwards who will be entering their first year of service to the squad. The Madison, Wisc. native has put in time with four NHL teams, most recently in 2011-12 with San Jose.
Drew LeBlanc and Pat Mullane come to Rockford from the college ranks. Maxim Shalunov, a big Russian right wing, was Chicago's fourth-round pick in 2011. He signed an AHL deal to play in Rockford.
Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill and Garret Ross have all been in Rockford on tryouts but begin their pro careers proper this fall. Joining them from junior hockey is Alex Broadhurst, Terry's brother.
Fresh from four seasons at North Dakota is Joe Gleason, Chicago's seventh-rounder back in 2008. The physical element is covered by veterans Jared Nightingale and Theo Peckham—two big bodies who won't be afraid to finish a check.
One of the more intriguing new names to the blue line is Viktor Svedberg, who is on an AHL deal with Rockford. The 6'8" Swedish native has two full seasons of experience in the Swedish Hockey League and is sure to be noticed on the ice.
With fan favorite Carter Hutton moving on to the Nashville Predators, a pair of youngsters will don the pads in 2013-14.
Antti Raanta, who signed with the Blackhawks this past spring, figures to get plenty of work as a potential backup to Corey Crawford in the near future. Kent Simpson appeared in the IceHogs final game this past season and was in Toledo for the bulk of the year.
Hitting the Road...and Staying There
The IceHogs have their bags packed to start the 2013-14 campaign. With renovations to the BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford is opening its season with five road games.
After the season opens up Saturday with the Texas Stars, Rockford travels to San Antonio on Sunday. The following weekend sees back-to-back nights in Lake Erie. Following an Oct. 18 visit to Chicago to tangle with the Wolves, the IceHogs are welcomed by their home fans Oct. 19 when they host Grand Rapids.
For a team that is hoping to avoid another slow start, seven of its first eight games on the road is a tall order.