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Coaching Carousal Is Back

06/27/2012 11:25 AM - Mike Peck
For the second straight summer, the head coaches of most teams in Rockford’s division and conference are getting turned over. Through June 27, seven of the 15 teams in the Western Conference, including three of the five in the Midwest Division, will have new faces behind the bench.

Here is list of the movers and shakers so far in the Western Conference:

Chicago
Out: Craig MacTavish (Departed organization)   
In: Scott Arniel

Grand Rapids

Out: Curt Fraser     (Promoted to Dallas-Assistant Coach)
In: Jeff Blashill

Hamilton
Out: Clement Jodin (Promoted to Montreal-Assistant Coach)
In: Sylvain Lefebvre

Lake Erie
Out: David Quinn (Promoted to Colorado-Assistant Coach)
In: TBA

Milwaukee
Out: Ian Herbers (Departed organization)   
In: Dean Evason

Peoria
Out: Jared Bednar (Fired)
In: Dave Allison

Texas
Out: Jeff Pyle (Fired)
In: Willie Desjardins

A few of the names might sound familiar. Arniel coached the Manitoba Moose from2006-09 before he was hired as the head coach in Columbus with the Blue Jackets. Allison was the head coach of the Iowa Stars from 2005-08.

A quick take on the draft-

I won’t offer a grade, but for the first time since Rockford’s been affiliated with Chicago, the Blackhawks took a European player with their first selection. It’s the first time since 2002 that Chicago took a player not from North America with their first pick when they grabbed Anton Babchuk (Russia) with the 21st overall selection.

As for the two goalies selected late in the draft (Brandon Whitney and Matt Tomkins), these two players are probably two-to-three seasons away from even sniffing Rockford and if they are NHL bound, five-to-six years away from that. With Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth close to entering the Blackhawks system and the emergence of Carter Hutton, the Blackhawks are really trying to keep the goalie cupboard stocked.

They also drafted Swedish goalie Johan Mattson with their final selection in the 2011 draft giving them five goaltending draft picks over the past three years.

Going back to 2003 (and not counting the 2010 or 2011 drafts), 55.7% of the Blackhawks’ selections played in the organization (39 of the 70 picks). Of those 39 picks, four played on AHL contracts.

So of the eight picks taken by Chicago last weekend, percentages say that four, maybe five of the players chosen, will end up in the organization.

Taking it one step further, 20 of the 70 picks (20.8%) have played in the NHL so far with Chicago. This number, however, doesn’t include prospects like Kyle Beach, Shawn Lalonde, Joe Lavin, Byron Froese and Peter LeBlanc who could all see time in Chicago at some point.

Using that percentage, two players from the 2012 NHL Blackhawks draft class will see NHL time in Chicago.

Of course this is all based on percentages. The 2009 draft has already had three of the eight players selected play in the NHL and the 2004 class featured seven of 17 players who suited up for the Hawks at some point. On the flip side, the 2006 draft produced Jonathan Toews for Chicago, but he is the only skater of the nine picked to play with the Blackhawks.

Recent Signees Could End Up In Rockford, Blueline Looking Rosey

06/01/2012 1:08 PM - Mike Peck
The Chicago Blackhawks have been very busy this past week, signing several of their draft picks from the past two entry drafts. The organization is really staying true to their draft to help replenish the big club.

After the signing of Adam Clendening on June 1, the Blackhawks already have inked six of their 11 draft picks from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. That’s 54.5% of the picks under contract, already ahead of the rate from the previous eight drafts where the Hawks signed on average 53.8% of their picks or had them play in the organization. The six players signed from a single draft class is the most for Chicago since the 2005 draft when the Blackhawks signed 10 of their 12 picks.

Players signed less than a year since last June’s draft include first round selections Mark McNeill (#18 overall), Phillip Danault (#26 overall), Clendening (#36 overall), Brandon Saad (#43 overall), Klas Dahlbeck (#79 overall) and Andrew Shaw (#139 overall).

The above list includes the team’s first four picks in the draft. The list doesn’t include Alex Broadhurst (#199 overall) who tore up the USHL this season, helping the Green Bay Gamblers to the Clark Cup Championship and will attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the fall.  Alex is the younger brother of Terry Broadhurst who will be in Rockford this fall.

Going back to the 2010 draft, Chicago has four of their 10 picks locked up under contract, including Kent Simpson (#58 overall), Joakim Nordstrom (#90 overall), Rob Flick (#120 overall) and Mac Carruth (#191 overall).

The number seems light, but the Blackhawks haven’t signed four of their top five picks from the draft including Kevin Hayes (#24 overall), Ludvig Rensfeldt (#35 overall), Justin Holl (#54 overall) and Stephen Johns (#60 overall).  This class doesn’t need to be under contract until next summer (or Chicago loses the players’ rights) and Hayes (Boston College), Holl (U. of Minnesota) and Johns (Notre Dame) will all get their junior seasons of NCAA hockey under their belts in 2012-13.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Clendening and Dahlbeck will both more than likely be in Rockford. Both are d-men and will add depth to the Blackhawks farm system, thought of lately as thin on defense.

Clendening won’t be 20 year olds until Oct. 26, so he’ll begin his first pro season as a 19-year-old rookie. At 5-11, 190lb, Clendening should eventually help boast the IceHogs power play as he led all Boston University defensemen in scoring with 33 points including 4g-29a. He’s classified as a finesse player with skill and a solid skater. The “X” factor of course is how it translates to the pro game.

The Niagara Falls, NY native could develop into an adequate replacement for Brian Connelly in Rockford. Similar size with a similar skill set.

Dahlbeck will bring some Swedish flavor back to the IceHogs. The 6-2, 200lb blueliner will also provide some bulk on the backline for Rockford. With some of the defensive zone issues that Rockford and Chicago had last season (specifically making that first pass), Dahlbeck could turn into a necessity for the organization with  some development in Rockford.

If the Hawks are able to come to terms with Holl and or Johns next summer, the depth at defense hopefully won’t be as much of an issue as I think it’s been over the past couple of seasons. I’m not sure Dylan Olsen will be a full-time NHL graduate in 2012-13, but he’s on the right track. Throw in Ryan Stanton and Joe Lavin, and there are three d-men that are developing nicely in Rockford.

The upcoming season will be a big one for Shawn Lalonde as well.  One of the biggest issues for Lalonde in Rockford is finding his hockey identity. Chicago’s second pick (third round, #68 overall) in the 2008 draft, Lalonde struggled offensively while trying to get his defensive priorities straightened out.

His production dipped from 5g-27a-32pts as rookie in 2010-11 to 2g-11a-13pts a season ago. Scouts still salivate over Lalonde’s skating and he has a strong shot from the point. If he can figure it out, that would be another strong defenseman prospect in the Blackhawks system.

Right now, Rockford’s backend to start 2012-13 could look something like this:

Ryan Stanton-Dylan Olsen
Ben Youds-Joe Lavin
Shawn Lalonde-Klas Dahlbeck
Adam Clendening

With the potential of Justin Holl and Stephen Johns entering the system in 2013-14 coupled with the possibility of adding a d-man or two (or three) to the cupboard in this month’s draft, the blueline is shaping up to be a strength for the Blackhawks.