The Rockford IceHogs currently sit at fourth in their division with a 15-9-3 record. Eight of the Blackhawks’ top 20 prospects are currently playing with the IceHogs.
Kontiola has continued to score at nearly a point-per-game pace with the IceHogs, in his second year with the team. It is not his numbers that concerned the team during camp though, as he arrived in poor condition and failed to grab hold of the open center slot. The result is another year of frustration for Kontiola, who has voiced complaints in not being a part of the parent club. The fact that he has continued to produce in Rockford is a good sign, and Kontiola will be near the top of the list should the Blackhawks need a call-up. Kontiola has 8 goals and 30 points in 28 games this season in the AHL.
Jack Skille, RW
After scoring one goal in his six-game tenure with the Blackhawks to start the season, Skille has become one of the primary scorers for the IceHogs. With 8 goals and 20 points in 23 games, he has shown the ability to consistently produce against professional competition. That consistency was missing in his games with the Blackhawks, at times making plays with his great speed and physicality but often losing battles and relying too heavily on his wheels. Soon after Denis Savard was replaced by Joe Quenneville as head coach of the Blackhawks, Skille was sent to Rockford in exchange for the potent power forward Troy Brouwer, who had scored 8 points in 5 games in Rockford. Skille’s top-line minutes and good production are signs that the organization made the right move giving the 21-year-old winger some more time.
The 6’2, 200 lbs Swedish defenseman missed a few games to injury at the start of the year, but has racked up minutes with the IceHogs in 20 games. Hjalmarsson’s debut with the Blackhawks late last season left a positive impression and the poorly-timed injury may have cost him a roster spot. There is a group of defensemen vying for time on the Blackhawks’ third pairing, so the ice time in Rockford will certainly help the 21-year-old. Hjalmarsson’s production probably keeps him first in line should a spot on the blueline open in Chicago, but there are plenty of veteran players ahead of him. He has nine points and is +5.
Hendry has had a quiet season production-wise in Rockford with just two points, but his +4 rating in 21 games played suggests he is still making an impact. This is business as usual for Hendry, who displayed a responsible brand of hockey during his 40-game stint in Chicago last season. While he may never match Hjalmarsson’s point production or propensity for the big hit, Hendry will be a dependable option on defense for the Blackhawks. The more minutes he can get at this point, the better equipped the Saskatchewan native will be for the NHL down the road.
The IceHogs began the season with a rotation in goal featuring Crawford and Finnish free-agent signee Antti Niemi. While Niemi may have gotten of to the hotter start, it has been Crawford who has won games recently. Crawford was called up for a few games when Nikolai Khabibulin was injured, but did not play during that stretch. Though his call-up was more of a way to give Niemi a shot at carrying the load, Crawford has really answered. He won his first two starts after returning to Rockford, stopping 67 shots in the two games. In a contract year, it is possible Crawford could be one of the odd men out of the Blackhawks’ net next year but he continues to battle and put up consistent numbers in the AHL. Overall Crawford has an 8-3-1 record, a .919 save percentage and a 2.55 GAA.
Nathan Davis, C
In his first professional season out of Miami of Ohio, Nathan Davis has yet to show flashes of the brilliance he displayed in college. He has scored 3 goals and 2 assists this season in 27 games, with a team-worst -7 rating. A fourth-round pick in 2005, the 22-year-old winger will be given plenty of time to find his game in Rockford.
Evan Brophey, C
Brophey has yet to find the scoring touch that he possessed in juniors, but has solid production this season. The 22-year-old center is tied for fifth in scoring on the IceHogs with 15 points (27 games) and leads the team with a +8 rating. Brophey should see plenty of ice time in Rockford and may be able to handle a leadership role in the future.
Bryan Bickell, at 6’4 218 lbs, and Michael Blunden, at 6’3, 209 lbs, are two of the biggest prospects in the Blackhawks organization, but neither has continued the success they experienced last year as rookie pros. Bickell has 8 points (24 games) and Blunden has 6 points (27 games) so far this season. Two former collegiate players, defenseman Mike Brennan and center Jake Dowell, are also seeing time with the IceHogs. Brennan, the captain of Boston College’s national championship last year, has 2 assists and a -3 rating in 23 games. Dowell, in his second pro year out of Wisconsin, split time between Rockford and Chicago last season. He has 7 assists and a +6 rating in 24 games this season with the IceHogs.
Four prospects are currently playing with the Blackhawks’ ECHL affiliate, the Fresno Falcons. Left winger Adam Berti, who also finished last season in the ECHL, has 8 points in 27 games this year. Center Adam Hobson has 14 points in 26 games. Jean-Claude Sawyer, a blueline free agent acquisition late last season, played in 14 games with Rockford (scoring four points) before being assigned to Fresno, where he has two points in six games. Goalie prospect Joe Fallon, in his first pro year following a stellar career at the University of Vermont, has gone 8-4-1. Fallon has earned a .911 save percentage and a 2.57 goals against average. He has played in 13 games, to Michael Ouzas’ 18, but with better numbers.