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Training Camp Preview

09/28/2012 2:01 PM - Mike Peck
The long awaited start of hockey season has finally arrived! Even though the NHL lockout is still hanging over the head of the sport, the American Hockey League is firing up, including the IceHogs who begin camp on Sunday, Sept. 30.

The majority of the IceHogs players have been in town for well over a week now as the lockout has put them in Rockford. So that in its self has brought a different vibe around here already. Usually players arrive the Friday or Saturday before camp with a good chuck still in Chicago vying for a spot on the Blackhawks.

But as of Friday, 22 of the 34 players on Rockford’s camp roster were already in town with most skating as a group in non-organized team skates and workouts. 

With no NHL training camp, not only will it make the preseason in Rockford a little more competitive, but it also means players have less time to get into “game” shape before opening night on Oct. 13.  When the team takes the ice on Sunday, a lot of players should already have had a week of training camp under their belts in Chicago. Not this year though.

So the first week of the preseason will be key with the three games and with limiting injuries heading into the regular season.

Ted Dent and his staff have split up the squad into two teams for practices and scrimmages with 15 skaters and two goalies per team.  I’ve already covered the roster in prior blog posts (see below) and the anticipated competitions in camp.

The biggest thing now is keeping everyone healthy into the regular season. I’m not a guy who hates the preseason and exhibition games because of the risk of injury. Injury is a part of the game and these exhibition games are necessary to get players back into a rhythm and shape.  But most of these guys go from hard off-ice workouts early in the summer to some casual ice time, then a little more competitive ice time and then back to casual for the past couple weeks leading into camp.

So the transition and getting hammered with long practice days and games can put an instant strain on the body. The worst part is, a groin injury sustained the first couple days of training camp can railroad a guy for the first two months of the season.

Chatting with a few of the players, they are anxious to get this thing going and are just glad to be playing hockey. Summer gets long and it’s got to be tough to be sitting on the sidelines, healthy and ready to play but with nowhere to play because of the lockout. So for a change, everyone in AHL camps should be happy with their surroundings because of the lack of NHL.

And now for a final vow as I sign off….I’m not going to refer to the lockout until it gets resolved in blog posts. Like all of you, I’m tired of them (especially in hockey).

Stayed tuned to icehogs.com as we’ll have lots of training camp coverage beginning on Sunday!

Now That The Bombshell Has Dropped

09/17/2012 3:14 PM - Mike Peck
Well, the inevitable happened on Saturday and the NHL owners have officially locked out its players for the second time in eight years.

Yeah it stinks, but for fans, it’s reality right now, and for fans of the AHL, the first month or two (and hopefully not any longer) could be a lot of fun!

Just looking at the IceHogs roster, there are 18 forwards listed along with eight defensemen and four goalies, for a total of 30 skaters. That number will get whittled down to around 23 to 24 barring injury.

So needless to say, this should be the most competitive training camp in IceHogs history. That means six or seven players who probably would have made Rockford’s roster out of training camp will now begin the season down in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye.

Click here to check out Rockford’s roster.

The forwards are going to be the most interesting as the top 15 is going to be extremely tough to crack. When I say top 15, I think it’s safe to say that includes (in alphabetical order) Kyle Beach, Brandon Bollig, Wade Brookbank, Rob Flick, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Kruger, Peter LeBlanc, Jeremy Morin, Philippe Paradis, Brandon Pirri, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith, Martin St. Pierre and Brandon Svendsen.

This, of course, is putting names on paper without seeing the work any of these guys have put in this summer. In conclusion to that statement: this isn’t the training camp to come into out of shape.

Without naming training camp invitees, which will be announced within the next week or so, the competition for the last few forwards spots will probably include Terry Broadhurst, Brookbank, Byron Froese, David Gilbert and Svendsen.

On the blueline, there are eight d-men listed on the roster. Logic says seven stay and that the two rookies, Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck, will battle Ben Youds for the final two spots. Think about that depth. I felt Youds was one of Rockford’s most versatile defensemen the second half of the season and he definitely should be here.

But, because of the lockout, he might be one of several players around the AHL starting the season in the ECHL.

The goaltending battle is going to be interesting as well, at least for the second spot. Carter Hutton is locked into the first and Alec Richards, Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth will fight for the other.  This is definitely going to be one of the most intriguing storylines of training camp.

With the likes of Nick Leddy, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Jimmy Hayes, the IceHogs definitely got deeper. But some other teams, particularly Oklahoma City, Charlotte and Houston really got loaded up.

If the lockout persists, when Charlotte comes to Rockford on Oct. 20 and 21, their roster could feature 2010-11 NHL Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, who had a solid rookie season in Carolina.