Rockford IceHogs | FEATURE: Mike Hardman – Resurgent in Year Three…
Official site of the Rockford IceHogs
Proud Affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks

FEATURE: Mike Hardman – Resurgent in Year Three with Rockford

Hardman Mike2324 B Ri

By Mackenzie Schweickart

Unhappy with himself and his production of 18 points (5G, 13A) from the 2022-23 season, Mike Hardman spent the summer break working to improve his game and his confidence in his own skills. Through 44 games this season, Hardman eclipsed his previous totals and currently leads the IceHogs with 17 goals.

“It was just a frustrating year,” Hardman said. “It was awesome to get [NHL] games at the end of the year, but I kind of just went into the summer and put my last year in the rearview mirror and just worked my butt off all summer,” said Hardman. “I think I came in in the best shape of my life, and I’m happy with my game right now. I just have to keep playing the way I’m playing, and hopefully our team keeps winning games, and we can make a playoff push here.”

Hardman skated at Boston University over the summer with IceHogs teammate Drew Commesso and NHL players like Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy working on making plays during drills and scrimmages.

“My first year, you know, I was scoring a lot of goals in front of the net; and I think working on that this summer back in Boston and skating with a lot of NHL guys helps your confidence being able to make plays with those guys,” said Hardman. “It leads to having confidence to be able to do that down here. I’m happy with my game right now, but there’s still 22 games left, so there’s a lot of hockey, and hopefully I can just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Hardman Mike2324 T Rbb Hardman Mike2324 T Rw Hardman Mike2324 B Rh Hardman Mike2324 Z Le Hardman Mike2324 J Ag

This season, Hardman ranks fourth among his teammates with 27 points (17G, 10A). Hardman has recorded four power-play goals, one short-handed tally, and three game-winning goals so far this season.

“I think it’s all confidence,” said Hardman. “I have that confidence; I can do this. I think anything you do, if you don’t have any confidence, you’re not going to do well at it. So, I got that confidence back that I had my first year here and that I had in college, and I kind of just said I believed in myself that I’m a good player.”

“A couple of years ago he had 19, but he might eclipse that this year,” said IceHogs head coach Anders Sorensen. “He’s taken more of a power forward role this year. He’s been really good on the penalty kill and getting some power-play time, as well, but we really trust him, and he’s maturing. He’s more poised with the puck now. He’s a big strong guy, and he gets around the net a lot, so that’s really positive.”

After playing two seasons at Boston College, Hardman signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 30, 2021. Going undrafted was upsetting at the time, but now Hardman realized it helped him mature and find the team that presented the best opportunity for himself.

“I remember just wanting to get drafted because I thought it’d be cool to get drafted like all the young kids do,” Hardman said. “And I remember not getting picked, and I was pretty pissed off, like just upset, like whatever. It was the best thing for me because when you’re an undrafted kid in college, you can talk to any team you want. The best part about it is you can pick any team you want to play on. Chicago is one of the first teams I talked to my freshman year, and they were great. I kind of just narrowed it down, but I thought Chicago was probably the best fit for me just because they were kind of in a rebuild. I chose to sign with them, and I’m pretty happy that I did that.”

Hardman said people have asked if he thinks he spent too little time playing college hockey before he turned pro, but he has no regrets about the experience as it helped him grow and develop as a player.

“I think I’ve gotten better in small areas of the game that I wasn’t better at my first year pro,” Hardman said. “You look at so many guys that have had great NHL careers, and they spend a little time in the minors. Even a guy like Corey Crawford, he played five years in the AHL, and he had an unbelievable NHL career. I think everyone’s different, and I think for my career—I’ve never really been the best player [I can be]. I always needed a couple of years to kind of get acclimated, like at prep school a couple years, juniors a couple years, where in college kind of clicked early, but I think in pro it just all came together for me this year, and I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been playing. It’s been good for me to play in the American League and hopefully get back up there [NHL].”

The IceHogs retired Corey Crawford’s number 29 in a special ceremony leading up to the game on February 10 with video tributes from old teammates and a speech from Crawford himself. Crawford joins the Rockford IceHogs Ring of Honor and is the first IceHog to have his number retired. Hardman’s two goals helped propel the IceHogs to a 2-1 win against the Chicago Wolves that night.

“It honestly reminded me of a playoff game here,” Hardman said. “The past few years we’ve been lucky enough to play in the playoff games, and it was sold out. The fans were awesome. But before the game, seeing a guy like Corey Crawford, a guy that I watched basically my whole life, watching him on TV and watching them win cups, and having him talk to us and the fans was really cool. Before the game, him reading the lineup and being able to meet him, it was really awesome. That was really cool to get a win for him and having it be a sold-out, packed barn.”

This season, the IceHogs’ average age is 23.96 years-old, making 25-year-old Hardman one of the more experienced leaders on the team. Now in year three with the IceHogs, Hardman is working to improve his leadership skills to help his rookie teammates develop and stay at the top of their games.

“The biggest thing is just coming from college for me,” Hardman said. “They’re playing a 30-game here in college, and then you’re coming to pro and you’re playing 72 games, and in the NHL you’re playing 82. It’s really hard to just be consistent every night, and that’s just maintaining—taking care of your body and just doing the little things for you to be able to be 100% out there. I’m just trying to tell the younger guys. I’m pretty close with Ryder Rolston, so I’ve just been talking to him about how to maintain your body and little things like that that the older guys taught me when I was a rookie.”

In his first season with the IceHogs in 2021-22 campaign, Hardman recorded 32 points (19G, 13A) through 43 games. He is on pace this season to set new career highs in all three scoring categories with 22 games left in Rockford’s regular season.

Hog Talk - Episode 10: Mike Hardman