Rockford, Ill. – The Rockford IceHogs are currently preparing for the opening of the 2020-21 AHL season. It will be a young batch of prospects entering the first weekend of action. Rockford’s 30-game schedule begins Friday night when the Cleveland Monsters visit the BMO Harris Bank Center.
What can we expect from this year’s crop of piglets? Here’s a quick look up and down the organization.
Initial Schedule: February 5 and 6-Cleveland, February 13-at Iowa, February 18-Grand Rapids, February 27 and 28-at Cleveland, March 3-Grand Rapids, March 6 and 7-Iowa.
Head Coach: Derek King (Two years, 58-55-3-6)
Captain: F Garrett Mitchell, who quickly earned the respect of the locker room after joining the team on a PTO last season. D Cody Franson (like Mitchell, on an AHL contract with Rockford) and F John Quenneville have been named alternate captains.
Last Season: 29-30-2-2, Fifth in the Central Division
2019-20 Season Summary
The Hogs entered the season with a slew of new prospects. Despite dropping their first three games, Rockford’s youngsters managed to gel fairly quickly. From November 2 to December 20, the IceHogs went 14-5-0-1. At that point, call ups and injuries resulted in the team’s fortunes dropping like a puck at faceoff. It happens.
Rockford dropped a 3-2 decision to Cleveland at home on December 21. This was the beginning of a two-month stretch where the IceHogs lost 16 of 19 contests.
Things got a little better by mid-March before the AHL put the kibosh on the season. With 62 points, they were just outside of the playoff picture.
Hot or Not?
Rockford, like many teams focusing on development, did not sign a lot of veteran talent to bolster the prospects on either end of the ice. The IceHogs are traditionally made up of young prospects. However, this year they will be the least experienced team in the AHL…and it isn’t even close.
- F John Quenneville-Really the only proven scorer the IceHogs will likely have to begin the season. Quenneville totaled thirteen goals and nine assists in 36 games with Rockford in 2019-20.
- F Mikael Hakkarainen-Was injured most of last season and is looking to get his AHL career back on track.
- F Tim Soderlund-Had trouble finding steady minutes last year. Speedy, high-motor player.
- D Chad Krys-Looking for bigger minutes than a season ago, could anchor a power-play unit.
- Tyler Sikura (14 G, 20 A)-He’ll be at the BMO when the season opens-as a member of the Cleveland Monsters, with whom he signed in October.
- Dylan Sikura (14 G, 19 A)-Traded to Vegas and currently set to skate for their AHL team in Henderson.
- Goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen, both of whom play for the Blackhawks.
- Pretty much any veteran skater from last year’s team.
- D Cody Franson-Longtime NHL veteran is back from overseas on an AHL deal. Should anchor a very young blueline.
- F Evan Barratt- Spent three seasons developing his game at Penn State. Hawks signed their 2017 third-rounder last spring.
- F Andrei Altybarmakyan-Chicago’s other third-round pick from 2017. He has been playing in the KHL, where he posted 17 points (6 G, 11 A) in 49 games with HK Sochi last season.
- D Alex Regula-Coming off of a junior career with the OHL’s London Knights, capped off by a 27 goal, 33 assist effort in 56 games last season.
What to Watch For?
Chicago, Grand Rapids, Iowa, and Cleveland have a bit more experience throughout their lineups than Rockford, which could mean trouble. Expect the piglets to take some lumps, especially in February and March.
There are a host of AHL contracts that will have to play key roles for Rockford. The organization is treating this season as an extended prospect development camp. With that in mind, several players who would be buried on the depth chart in past campaigns have some unique opportunities.
The IceHogs may struggle to score goals and will be quite raw on the defensive end. Be patient. Rockford will be a work in progress.
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