The Rockford Ice Hogs kick off their season this Saturday in Texas against the San Antonio Rampage and we will get a good look at the Blackhawks’ prospects in AHL action.
Some prospects will not be with the team Saturday as the Hawks assigned goaltender Mac Carruth and forward David Gilbert to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. Additionally, Kyle Beach was loaned to the Swedish HV71 and 2012 first-round draft pick Teuvo Teravainen will spend some development time with Jokerit of the Finnish SM-liiga.
The Hawks have no worries about these moves because of the skill already developing in Rockford. Brandon Pirri led the AHL in points last season (75) and Jeremy Morin looks to continue his consistency as a winger, which has earned him the privilege of playing at the NHL level several times over the past three seasons.
Phillip Danault could be on the verge of a huge season in hopes of earning a Blackhawks roster spot. He’s spent some time moving around the QMJHL over the last four seasons but has been consistently averaging 30 assists as a center. He’ll be taking a back seat to Pirri on Rockford’s top line but is a solid second-line center for the AHL. With development and the possibility of Pirri joining the Hawks for a stretch of time this season, he could jump to the top line.
Hawks fans should be real excited about winger Drew LeBlanc, who earned the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player last season with St. Cloud State. He played two games with Chicago late last season, but was ineligible for postseason play due to Chicago acquiring him after the trade deadline. LeBlanc is a pace player who primarily records assists out on the ice, but he could quickly turn into a goal-scorer with his lethal vision. Alongside promising centers in Rockford, LeBlanc could have himself a 30-goal season in Rockford in his first full season opportunity out of NCAA play.
As the big guys in Chicago have a solid lineup that will be exciting to watch all season, so do the prospects in Rockford. The organization is working hard to solidify itself as the top professional hockey organization in North America. With prospects like this to back up the pros, we’d like to think its well on its way.