One-on-one: Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King

  

Thrown into a difficult situation early last season, Derek King got his first taste of being a head coach with the Rockford IceHogs on the heels of the firing of former Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Then-IceHogs head coach Jeremy Colliton was promoted to replace Quenneville and King was given the reigns as the head man in Rockford. Now, entering his first full season as a head coach, King took time to preview the upcoming 2019–20 season with The-Rink.

One-on-one with IceHogs head coach Derek King

After taking over the head coaching position early in November last season, Derek King led the IceHogs to a 29–28–7 record with him behind the bench as the boss. Missing the Calder Cup Playoffs by seven points in the AHL Central Division, the IceHogs ranked last in goals scored last season, but had the 10th-fewest goals scored against them and had both Collin Delia and Anton Forsberg finish in the top five in the league in save percentage.

The roster makeup heading into the 2019–20 season looks promising from a scoring potential standpoint and the IceHogs have Delia returning to the net as a tandem with emerging goaltender Kevin Lankinen. Signs are pointing up for the IceHogs heading into this season and King is focusing on getting his young team ready to be professionals right from the start.

On handling the first offseason knowing he will be head coach this year:

“Well, summer has been too long having missed the playoffs. But, it’s been a good opportunity to take a deep breath, step back from the game and just concentrate on preparing for next year. I was just talking with Anders (Sorensen) and we’re just ready to get back.”

On mentality heading into this season after missing playoffs:

“The big thing is going into this year and being healthy is a major key. Last year when I took over, there were like 10–12 guys who were injured and out of our lineup within the first month. So, the nice thing is you get a fresh start with a healthy squad. The mindset is, as it has always been at this level, to develop our players and get them ready for the NHL. Especially this year, you don’t know what’s going to happen up top and these guys need to be ready to step right in. With that being said, it’s nice to get these guys developed, but it’s also nice to win some hockey games.”

On balance between coaching to development and coaching to win:

“Developing guys is the higher percentage goal. I don’t know if it’s 60–40 or what, like if it’s 60 percent developing guys and 40 percent focus on winning, but it fluctuates every month at this level, because you don’t always know who or what you have. The key thing with us, especially with the younger guys, is to make sure that they have the right nutrition, the right habits and work ethic on the ice to turn into good pros for Chicago.”

Rockford IceHogs Derek King

Rockford IceHogs interim head coach Derek King looks on during an IceHogs game in the 2018–19 season. (Photograph courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs)

On how much contact he keeps with players over the summer regarding training:

“You have to trust these guys. They’re professional hockey players and you can’t hold their hand. Obviously, some guys come early into town and start working out and training in the Chicago area to get ready, but they’re on their own. They need to know this is pro hockey now and have to learn how to get into a routine. The big thing is teaching them the off-ice stuff to learn the right habits.”

On youth of the roster heading into 2019–20 season:

“The big thing is consistency for them. I think they’ll find out the season is a grind, but the nice thing is we have some veteran players to help lead those young guys the right way. They have to take care of their bodies, like I said the habits of eating well and making sure they are staying on top of their training.”

On veteran presence that Kris Versteeg adds to IceHogs’ roster:

“He’s won some Cups, played in the NHL for a long time and he is a skilled player, so he’ll play in a lot of situations for us. These guys can learn from him, especially the forwards can see how he handles things. We will see after camp how things go, we got some other veterans coming back for us like Tyler Sikura and we’re going to count on them to be leaders for us.”

Rockford IceHogs Derek King

Rockford IceHogs interim head coach Derek King watches on during an IceHogs game in the 2018–19 season. (Photograph courtesy of Texas Stars)

On naming, or not naming, a set leadership group or captain for the 2019–20 season:

“The leaders will step out; you’ll notice them from the crowd and who they are. We won’t jump the gun and say, ‘Oh this guy will be our captain’ based on age or experience or anything like that. It’ll be based on who can lead the team the right way. That’s not saying our young guys can’t be leaders.”

On having Adam Boqvist possibly available for the IceHogs this season:

“The big thing with him is that he has the skills to play the game on the big stage, but you have to get the ‘junior’ out of him. He’ll have to learn, like everyone else, how to be a good pro, be a good teammate and how to do things the right way. It’s all part of the development and we have to guide him in that area. For guys coming in from college or junior or over from Europe, the American Hockey League is a better league than you think. That’ll be a message. To get through it, you have to work hard and stay healthy. But for Adam, the skill is there, he just has to hone his game. He’ll get the ice time, but it’s all the little things that he’ll have to put together.”

The IceHogs and Blackhawks prepare for training camp to begin in Chicago on Sept. 15 with the annual Training Camp Festival. Before that, the organization’s rookies will play in the Traverse City Rookie Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, beginning on Sept. 6.

Center Ice Forums One-on-one: Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King

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  • #14220
    Mario Tirabassi
    Participant

    Thrown into a difficult situation early last season, Derek King got his first taste of being a head coach with the Rockford IceHogs on the heels of th
    [To continue reading full article, click here: One-on-one: Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King]

    #14224
    Mister Ricochet
    Participant

    Nice work here, Mario.

    On Boqvist:   ““The big thing with him is that he has the skills to play the game on the big stage, but you have to get the ‘junior’ out of him.”

    Indeed and as skilled as the kid is it goes to show how damn good kids are that go straight from jrs or Euro pro to the bigs really are.

    I’ve heard it phrased that pro coaches coach the wild horse out of a prospect and Boqvist fits that analogy perfectly.   I am assuming he gets some games early with the Hawks and then goes down to Rockford.  Gonna be fun to see the kid at that level………… Who works with the defense at Rockford?

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