The Chicago Blackhawks affiliate in the AHL, the Rockford IceHogs, are home to a bevy of recent draft picks hoping to find their way to the NHL someday. Two players from the 'Hawks 2011 draft class, Mark McNeill and Klas Dahlbeck, are stepping up their games in the early going of the 2013-14 campaign.
Chicago's top pick from that 2011 draft, McNeill, is enjoying success in his first full season with the IceHogs. After not showing much in two brief tryouts at the end of Rockford's previous two seasons, McNeill has made his presence felt on the offensive end.
McNeill, who was drafted as a center, is playing a lot of wing in Rockford and is flourishing to the tune of seven goals and three assists in his first 13 games. By way of comparison, McNeill had failed to register a point in 12 AHL games before this season.
McNeill had a three-game goal streak snapped Sunday in a 3-1 loss to Grand Rapids, but his play so far this season is cause for optimism.
Dahlbeck, a 6'2", 192-pound defenseman from Sweden, is showing a lot of improvement on both sides of the ice in his second season in Rockford. A third-round selection in 2011, Dahlbeck played 70 games for the IceHogs last year. He managed six points (1G, 5A) and a plus-11 rating.
Dahlbeck has continued to display great positional instincts and is also finding the offensive side of his game. Pairing with Adam Clendening, Dahlbeck has four goals and four helpers and is bringing the puck up the ice with more authority than a year ago.
Dahlbeck is one of several defensemen playing well for the IceHogs.
Dylan Olsen hasn't found the back of the net yet but has seven assists and leads the team with a plus-five rating. Clendening leads the team with 12 points (2G, 10A) and is tied for second in the league among defensemen. He also is a plus-four for the season.
Rough Week For Rockford
The IceHogs dropped three straight games this week, starting with a 5-3 Halloween setback at the BMO Center to Charlotte. They then went to Milwaukee Friday and lost 4-2 to the Admirals. Sunday, Grand Rapids visited Rockford and handed the Hogs a 3-1 loss.
The losing streak drops the IceHogs from the lofty heights atop the AHL's Western Conference. With a 7-5-1 mark and 15 points, Rockford trails Grand Rapids by a single point in both the conference and the Midwest Division.
The IceHogs hope to get back to their winning ways with a rematch in Grand Rapids Wednesday, followed by a Friday-Saturday back-to-back with the visiting Iowa Wild.