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07/09/2013 12:30 PM - Mike Peck

This week marks the annual Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Camp. Usually when this camp rolls around, we are all ready for some hockey in the middle of the summer.

Not that I’m not ready to go and watch some hockey, but with the Hawks just ending a couple weeks ago, it’s strange thinking how quickly the reset button really has to get pushed on a new season.

One thing is for certain, there is a lot of (immediate) future Rockford IceHogs at this summer’s camp. I’d say more than in years past. 

There could be up to nine players in this camp that could be on Rockford’s Opening Night roster.  The list includes forwards Alex Broadhurst, Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill, Pat Mullane and Garret Ross; defenseman Viktor Svedberg along with goalies Mac Carruth, Antti Raanta and Kent Simpson.  Of course only two goalies will make the team this fall, so I guess the “goalie battle” begins this week.

To compare to last summer’s Prospect Camp, there were two players at the camp (Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck) who made Rockford’s opening night club in 2012-13. Simpson and Broadhurst both started the season in Toledo, while Ross, Danault, McNeill and Joakim Nordstrom played elsewhere before joining the IceHogs down the homestretch. So just two IceHogs regulars were at the camp last summer.

One word sums up the 2013-14 IceHogs, “young.” I know you’ve heard this before (like in 2010-11 and 2011-12), but the roster is ready for some turnover and this is the year again. Remember, the ’10-11 team contained the following rookies: Dylan Olsen, Ryan Stanton, Nick Leddy, Shawn Lalonde, Kyle Beach, Brandon Bollig, Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, Peter LeBlanc and Alec Richards, among others.  Overall, 18 different first-year pros played for the IceHogs that season, including Joe Lavin and Jimmy Hayes at the tail-end of the slate.

I doubt that we’ll ever see a team as young as that squad as the IceHogs featured four different 19-year olds (Olsen, Pirri, Morin and Leddy) during the season.

To compare this to last season, Rockford suited and played just five rookie skaters. The natural evolution of the AHL (most organizations anyways) is to develop, improve and push through the parent club’s prospects. 

The likes of Smith, Hayes, Pirri and Morin and ready to graduate to the NHL. Now any of them could end up back in Rockford at some point next season, but I wouldn’t count on all of them. Mix that in with the quick development of Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, plus the graduation of Brandon Bollig, there has to be a lot of turnover in Rockford.

I haven’t even mentioned the departures of Martin St. Pierre (Montreal), Rostislav Olesz (New Jersey), Steve Montador (Free Agent) and Carter Hutton (Nashville). Joe Lavin and Maxime Sauve also will not return as they were not tendered by the Blackhawks.

Last season, there were 27 players who played for the IceHogs that also skated for the team in 2011-12 and 30 overall that had previously played in Rockford.  That number will be a lot smaller this season.

Rockford’s strength next year should be on the backend where the majority of the club’s defense should remain intact. Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Dylan Olsen are all under contract for one more season, plus Shawn Lalonde and Ryan Stanton were tendered, meaning they should get retained by the organization. So right now, the only new defenseman will be the 6’9” Victor Svedberg.  There will be at least one, if not two, more d-men added to the mix before camp.

Other probable returnees next fall include forwards Kyle Beach, Terry Broadhurst, Byron Froese, David Gilbert, Brad Mills and Joakim Nordstrom.

If a new contract can be agreed upon between Drew LeBlanc and the Blackhawks, there is also a good chance that he’ll end up in Rockford.

My estimation has up to at least eight rookies on Rockford’s opening night roster. So similar to 2010-11 after Chicago won the Stanley Cup, it’s time to start developing more prospects in Rockford.

We’ll be at Prospect Camp on Thursday to catch up with some of the future IceHogs, so stay tuned to for some feature stories and videos over the next couple weeks.