With the NHL reaching a deal on a new CBA, effectively ending the NHL lockout, star players from all over Europe and North America will be heading back to their NHL squads. But even after those players return, there will be some spots open on NHL rosters. That’s where the AHL comes in.
As of now, the Rockford Ice Hogs are sitting at a 17-16-1-1 record, which has them at only 11th place in the 15 team Western Conference. But the Blackhawks still see enough potential to yank a few of them up to the big time.
As of now, the Chicago Blackhawks’ official website lists 10 forwards on the main roster: Bryan Bickell, David Bolland, Daniel Carcillo, Michael Frolik, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Jamal Mayers, Patrick Sharp, Viktor Stalberg, and Jonathan Toews. With four lines of three players, two Hogs, as of right now, will definitely get a call up to fill the 11th and 12th spot. The main choices for these spots will be Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig, Ben Smith, and Andrew Shaw, with other players like Brandon Pirri and Kyle Beach having an outside shot. Kruger played admirably last season, holding a +11 +/- rating in limited ice time during his 71 games. Brandon Bollig is a fighter who won’t let his linemates get pushed around. Ben Smith captured Blackhawk fan’s hearts by scoring the Game 6 winner versus Vancouver in the 2011 first round matchup. Finally, Andrew Shaw has become a cult-hero through his amazing debut last year and tough hits he was able to lay out every so often.
On defense, the Hawks already have seven blue-liners, but will definitely bring up 21 year-old Nick Leddy, who played well for them last year. Veteran Brett Lebda was signed to the Hogs’ training camp roster during the lockout, but will not be on the major-league team. With Leddy on the Hawks, there are eight defensemen: Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Steve Montador, Johnny Oduya, Brent Seabrook, and new additions Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Roszival. It’s a crowded blue-line, so two of these players will need to be scratched on a nightly basis or sent to the minors, with possibility of being picked up on waivers by a different team.
Whatever GM Stan Bowman decides to do, he will need to do it quick, as NHL Opening Night is January 19. While the Hawks won’t play that day, odds are that they will play very soon after.