IceHogs look to build toward future, extend coaching staff

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 11:27 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Any amount of games this season was going to be enough for the Rockford IceHogs. The Hogs were able to play all 32 of their games and make it through the year without a single case of COVID-10. Even without a playoffs to look forward to, there was much more good than bad, despite the record.

17 first-year players saw time in Rockford, much more than your normal season.

Matt Tomkins developed in goal, and players like Dylan McLaughlin took another step forward. McLaughlin was named the team’s most improved player after tallying eight goals and 14 assists. He led the team in points with 22.

With the NHL expanding rosters, adding a taxi squad, players were called up and sent down weekly to the Chicago Blackhawks. Head coach Derek King had his hands full juggling a lineup of who’s in and who’s out. King just completed his second “full” season as head coach.

This year, Rockford, and the Blackhawks organization as a whole, focused on development. Six IceHogs made their NHL debut this season (Alec Regula, MacKenzie Entwistle, Philipp Kurashev, Reese Johnson, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Kevin Lankinen). Kurashev, Lankinen, Brandon Hagel, Collin Delia, and Nicolas Beaudin, all made the big club roster to start the year. Hagel, Kurashev and Beaudin each spent only one season in the AHL.

Because of the development of the young players under King and his coaching staff, the organization rewarded him, assistant coach Anders Sorensen and goaltender coach Peter Aubry with three-year contract extensions.

“He knows how these players are feeling,” said Blackhawks VP of Hockey Operations Mark Bernard. “He knows the approach to take with them. I think that coaching staff is a great fit for what we need to do here in Rockford.”

Bernard has been the man in charge since the IceHogs became the AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks. He says Hawks General Manager Stan Bowman has tried to move him up within the organization, but Bernard says he loves what he’s doing in Rockford.

“I think sometimes we’re so busy trying to climb the corporate ladder, we forget where we are on the ladder, and sometimes that’s your best niche,” explained Bernard. “I know I’m a good fit in running this organization for the Blackhawks.”

“I think Stan, he appreciates the fact that he hasn’t had to worry about what’s happening in Rockford for the last 13 years. He knows I have it under control. We talk on almost a daily basis. The fact that he trusts my judgment, means the world to me.”

It’ll be a quick off-season for the IceHogs with the anticipation of an AHL season starting on time in October.

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