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Rockford's Simpson believes lockout will lead to big AHL season

09/24/2012 10:05 AM - From Comcast Sportsnet Chicago: (link)

Although the NHL lockout doesn't have a direct impact on the American Hockey League's season, Blackhawks prospect Kent Simpson knows it will lead to some changes in Rockford and around the rest of league.

Despite all the negativity and discouragement currently surrounding the NHL's collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the lockout could take a positive spin on the AHL. With NHLers heading back during the work stoppage, the league will likely experience a big boost in talent and fan attendance.

During the Blackhawks prospect camp in July, Simpson impressed coaches and staff, showing he's healthy and ready to make the jump full-time into the pros. Now he just has to make that final push to be able to call Rockford his home throughout the season.

"There are no guarantees in hockey. So I have to come into camp this year in Rockford and make the team. That is what my first priority is and then I can worry about the rest from then on," Simpson told

Simpson was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (No. 58 overall) after playing with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. There he recorded a .909 save percentage over his four seasons in Washington. Now he's ready to prove he can keep up with the amount of talent the team will have this season.

"Rockford is certainly going to have a strong lineup with the addition of the players that have NHL experience. The league in general is going to be elevated and I think that's a good thing for everyone to get better," Simpson said.

"I don't think that anyone will be changing their games due to the addition of these players. You just have to keep playing the way you play and look to get better everyday. It will make the league stronger, so you'll have to be on top of your game all the time though, [that's] for sure.

"Although we all miss NHL hockey, I think it's great for the AHL. The league will be elevated and [be] very competitive."

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