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Early Projections On 2012-13 Roster

05/10/2012 9:58 AM - Mike Peck
Now that we’re in the offseason, it’s never too early to look ahead to what might be for the Rockford IceHogs lineup in 2012-13.

Like 2011-12, there will be a very solid core group of players back for a follow up year in Rockford. Before you say “here we go again”, let me preface this by saying that this is a good thing.

A lot of the returnees will be entering their third year in professional hockey.  The third year seems to be the best season in the maturation process for AHL players, at least the ones that we’ve seen come through here.

The likes of Jack Dowell, Jack Skille, Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Jordan Hendry and Colin Fraser all really seemed to settle in, in their third season of professional hockey.

In 2012-13, the likes of Brandon Pirri, Ryan Stanton, Shawn Lalonde, Kyle Beach, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Pete LeBlanc will all be in their third season. That list doesn’t count Carter Hutton, Brandon Bollig and Dylan Olsen who all could see time in Rockford.

So the core of the IceHogs should be on the cusp of spending some time with the Blackhawks next year. But remember, with the numbers in Chicago, most of these guys will be back in Rockford.

Before I get into my projection for Rockford’s lineup, some of this is under the assumption that Bollig, Smith and Hutton all get re-signed by the Hawks. To check out the contract situation for IceHogs players from 2011-12, click here.

Let’s start with the forwards:
Jeremy Morin-Brandon Pirri-Jimmy Hayes
Free Agent-Peter LeBlanc-Ben Smith
Philippe Paradis-Rob Flick-Free Agent
Terry Broadhurst -Byron Froese-Free Agent/David Gilbert

Other possibilities: Brandon Bollig, Brandon Saad and up to two other draft picks/free agents

Looking at the situation in Chicago, barring any trades this offseason (which is a possibility), the Blackhawks have 11 forwards under contract for next season not counting Hayes, as I have him projected to be back next fall to at least start the season in Rockford.

This number doesn’t include Bollig (who needs a contract) or Saad who will make a push to earn a roster spot in September.  Also not included in this number are possible free agent signees for the Hawks who will have nearly $7-million of cap space to work with.

With Smith coming off of his hip surgery, he’ll more than likely start the season in Rockford as he’ll be behind a little bit after getting a late start on his summer training. Although with Smith and his work ethic, he has a tendency of exceeding expectations!

Rostislav Olesz is another possibility in the lineup, but more than likely not to start the season as his injury from the end of ’11-12 will keep him on the sideline for a bit 2012-13.

Defensemen:
Stanton-Free Agent
Youds-Lavin
Lalonde-Free Agent

Other possibilities: Dylan Olsen, a draft pick or two free agents

Like Hayes, Olsen could find himself in Rockford to start the season. With Olsen, Chicago has six defensemen locked up for next season. It’s a good bet that a lot of that extra cash under the cap will be used on a d-man or two, ultimately bumping him back down to the AHL.

It’s not a slight on Hayes or Olsen if they start and spend a significant amount of time in Rockford next year. It’s the nature of the development process and could really benefit them in the long run.

Also keep in mind, where I have listed “free agent”, don’t count out guys like Brandon Svendsen or a Brian Fahey in that category.

Goaltending:
Hutton
Salak

A position that has really been a liability coming into the last two seasons could be a huge strength. Hutton isn’t signed yet, but if he is, the Hawks would have him, Alexander Salak and Alec Richards all under contract for next season. That doesn’t even count Kent Simpson who is another possibility.

If the above projection is accurate, there will be 16 returning players from the 2011-12 squad next fall (including Broadhurst, who played in eight games).  Compared to last season, Rockford had 19 players play in both 2010-11 and 2011-12, including Wade Brookbank, who came out of retirement in February.

If teams come out of camp healthy, they’ll typically carry 22 to 23 players (14 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies). That means there are about six or seven spots for fresh faces on next season’s roster.

I’m sure a couple of the free agent spots will be taken by draft picks or skaters from prospect camp, but I’d like to see a veteran, Fahey-type defenseman signed and two solid veteran forwards added as well.