Fans all around the National Hockey League were hit with some pretty devastating news over the weekend, as the league found itself officially locked out. Again. But fans of the Chicago Blackhawks can take at least some solace in knowing there’s plenty of hockey to be found just a short(ish) drive away.
The Rockford Icehogs of the AHL will be kicking off their season next month, and will feature plenty of familiar faces. Some are players we’ve seen briefly with the Blackhawks, while others are players that the Hawks sent down on Saturday, prior to the lockout becoming official.
The Icehogs’ roster features at least a couple of players that were locks for the Blackhawks’ roster this year. Marcus Kruger was sent to Rockford, as were Nick Leddy and Andrew Shaw. That doesn’t even include the few folks that were expected to battle it out for a few of the open roster spots.
Jimmy Hayes, Ben Smith, and Dylan Olsen all make their returns to Rockford as well. With this extra time to keep an eye on the AHL, though, I’ve got my eye on a few of the other guys that I haven’t seen quite as often in the Hawks’ organization.
Prospects Brandon Saad and Adam Clendening will both be in Rockford to start the year. Saad was considered to have a decent shot at cracking the regular lineup out of training camp with the Hawks. Clendening hasn’t seen the NHL level yet, but projects to be a top notch offensive defenseman in the near future.
There’s also Jeremy Morin. He’s been handling the Rockford grind for most of the time he’s been in the organization, with injury likely holding him back. It’s a similar situation with Kyle Beach. I look forward to watching both with a summer to get back at full strength.
Don’t sleep on Brandon Pirri either. He’s my darkhorse candidate to center that second line for the Hawks, if there’s a season. He had an impressive run at training camp last year and had a very nice season with the Icehogs last year, with 56 points in 66 games.
Overall, there’s a pretty decent chunk of names to keep an eye on down in Rockford as long as the NHL is in a lockout. Aside from these names you’ve got Carter Hutton in goal, Joe Lavin, and Shawn Lalonde. Oh yeah, Brandon Bollig will be there as well.
Don’t fret for too long, Blackhawk fans. Plenty of your (younger) favorites will be available to see in action in just a few short weeks. If you’re that determined to see the bigger names, you’ll probably have to invest in a ticket for an international flight over to somewhere in Europe.