After finishing the 2017-18 AHL season with a loss in overtime of Game Six of the Western Conference Finals in the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Rockford IceHogs returned from Texas and met with members of the media to close out the year. In these exit interviews, players and coaches discuss their season from start to finish, the experience of playing in the playoffs, their own development, and what the future holds for them both in the long and short-term with the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
In one of the more memorable season’s in Rockford IceHogs AHL history, the team accomplished a tremendous amount together and individually in the 2017-18 season. To note a few:
- Furthest run in the Calder Cup Playoffs, including deepest postseason run since 2007 Colonial Cup win (UHL).
- Chris DiDomenico sets franchise record for postseason point total (18 points, 13 games)
- Matthew Highmore sets franchise rookie goal-scoring record (24 goals)
- Adam Clendening sets franchise all-time assists and points record for a defenseman (122 assists, 148 points)
- Carl Dahlstrom becomes 100th IceHogs player to reach the NHL
- Vince Hinostroza and Erik Gustafsson named AHL All-Stars, replaced by Matthew Highmore and Carl Dahlstrom at AHL All-Star Classic
Rockford IceHogs Exit Interviews
(Key: Regular Season Stats / Calder Cup Playoff Stats)
Head Coach Jeremy Colliton
In his first season coaching in North America, Colliton led the Rockford IceHogs back to the Calder Cup Playoffs after a last-place finish in the Central Division last season. At just 33-years old, Colliton is already proving his worth to the Chicago Blackhawks organization and maybe, just maybe, a possible replacement for Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville in the near future.
Cody Franson, Defenseman – 37 GP, 9 G, 19 A / 13 GP, 6 G, 7 A
Cody Franson‘s 2017-18 season did not go as planned. He signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, expecting to be a top-six defenseman for the NHL club. Those plans changed mid-way through the season and he finished the year with the IceHogs. One of the leading point scorers in the regular season and playoffs, Franson made the most of his stint in Rockford and helped propel the IceHogs offensively and defensively.
Adam Clendening, Defenseman – (38 GP, 4 G, 26 A / 13 GP, 1 G, 13 A)
Much like Franson, Adam Clendening did not expect his 2017-18 season to wind up with the Rockford IceHogs. Acquired via trade with the Arizona Coyotes, Clendening re-joined the IceHogs late in the season and made his reunion count. Leading all Rockford defensemen in points in the regular season and playoffs, Clendening was a big part of the trio of veteran players that led the IceHogs through the Calder Cup Playoffs alongside Franson and Chris DiDomenico.
Chris DiDomenico, Forward – (22 GP, 8 G, 15 A / 13 GP, 7 G, 11 A)
Rounding out the trio of players who all joined the IceHogs late in the year, but had some of the biggest impacts in their time with the team, Chris DiDomenico also found his 2017-18 season come to a close with the IceHogs via a trade. Late in the season, DiDomenico joined Rockford and immediately made his presence known on the ice and in the locker room. Head Coach Jeremy Colliton praised DiDomenico’s contributions to the roster mentally and physically, saying he brought the feeling to the group that on any given night, they should come away winners. Over his last 35 games combined, DiDomenico put up 41 points.
Jeff Glass, Goaltender – (28 GP, 15-9-2, 2.82 GAA, .904 SV% / 3 GP, 2-1, 1.48 GAA, .955 SV%)
What a ride the 2017-18 season was for goaltender Jeff Glass. A journeyman net-minder, who has played the majority of his career in the KHL, becomes the starting goalie for the Rockford IceHogs and Chicago Blackhawks at different points of the season. At 32-years old, Glass made his NHL debut with Chicago and tallied three wins in the big league. With Rockford, Glass continued to lead the IceHogs through tough stretches of the season and graciously took a back seat at the beginning of the Calder Cup Playoffs to Collin Delia. When called back upon in the postseason, Glass gave the IceHogs every chance to complete an improbable comeback, before ultimately coming up just two wins short of the Calder Cup Final.
Collin Delia, Goaltender – (28 GP, 17-7-4, 2.72 GAA, .900 SV% / 10 GP, 7-3, 2.34 GAA, .924 SV%)
Speaking of wild rides this season, Collin Delia had one of the more unbelievable start to finishes this year for the IceHogs. Starting the year with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL, making his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks, and leading the Rockford IceHogs into the Calder Cup Playoffs, Delia was the most improved player from day one. Having a stretch from early January to the end of the regular season, Delia lost just a handful of games, with the majority of those losses coming in overtime or the shootout. It goes without saying that the IceHogs would not have been in the position they were in the final six weeks of the season without Delia. Oh, and he was named the Rockford IceHogs Man of the Year.
Lance Bouma, Forward – (20 GP, 7 G, 7 A / 13 GP, 1 G, 1 A)
Lance Bouma found himself in similar shoes as Cody Franson did with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Signing a one-year contract, Bouma started the year as a regular in the Blackhawks’ lineup, but as the year progressed his play wasn’t what Chicago needed and the opportunity to give players with more of a future with the organization arose. Thus, Bouma headed to Rockford and made the most of his situation, providing a physical presence on the ice and a leadership quality in the locker room.
Tanner Kero, Forward – (36 GP, 8 G, 12 A / 12 GP, 0 G, 3 A)
Tanner Kero dealt with injuries on and off this season, which was a factor in him having a less-than-stellar outing with the Chicago Blackhawks this year. Being one of the players on the fence between the NHL and AHL in the organization, Kero saw his spot as a bottom-six center with Chicago go to David Kampf and found himself with the IceHogs. Once healthy, he was a consistent presence for Rockford during the regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs.
John Hayden, Forward – (24 GP, 5 G, 12 A / 13 GP, 3 G, 0 A)
One of the younger players that plays on that same NHL/AHL fence for the Chicago Blackhawks organization, John Hayden could have taken his assignments to the Rockford IceHogs this season as a negative. But, to Hayden’s credit, he played well and understood that his time with the IceHogs this season was to give him time to develop his game. Playing with Chicago, Hayden’s game started to deviate from size and skill, to size and slam. Hayden has more to offer than just a big-bodied player and with Rockford, Hayden was able to play more meaningful minutes and find his skill-set at the pro level. A restricted free agent this summer, the Blackhawks will more than likely sign Hayden and make him a part of the bottom-six in Chicago next season.
Tyler Sikura, Forward – (74 GP, 23 G, 16 A / 13 GP, 5 G, 1 A)
Next to Collin Delia, Tyler Sikura was one of the most improved players over the course of the season. In his first full-year in the AHL, Sikura scored 23 goals (2nd on the team) and earned himself his first NHL deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Sikura can find himself in a position battle for a bottom-six forward spot with Chicago next year as he showed that he has a scoring touch around the net for the IceHogs and can play physical when called upon.
Andreas Martinsen, Forward – (64 GP, 12 G, 16 A / 13 GP, 2 G, 3 A)
Joining the IceHogs right as the 2017-18 season began, Andreas Martinsen was brought in to the organization to help lead a young locker room early on. Far from a grizzled veteran, Martinsen brought some NHL experience to a locker room in Rockford that started the year with nearly a dozen players making their first year pro debuts. Martinsen was a leader on and off the ice for the IceHogs and provided consistent physical play throughout the year and into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Martinsen was also able to get a few NHL games under his belt with the Blackhawks late in the NHL season.
David Kampf, Forward – (33 GP, 7 G, 11 A / 13 GP, 1 G, 0 A)
David Kampf came into the Chicago Blackhawks organization with a ton of question marks surrounding him. A free agent signing from Europe, the 23-year old Czech Center joined the IceHogs out of training camp and was a player that head coach Jeremy Colliton gave a large amount of ice-time to. It worked in Kampf’s favor as he was recalled to the Blackhawks mid-way through the season and would only re-join the IceHogs with a few games remaining in the regular season. While only scoring one playoff point, Kampf created a ton of offensive chances. He’ll figure to be in the mix for a bottom-six position with Chicago next year.
Carl Dahlstrom, Defenseman – (64 GP, 3 G, 25 A / 13 GP, 3 G, 6 A)
The 2017-18 season narrative of the Rockford IceHogs continued to be young talent making huge improvements all season, and for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, that narrative rang true. A sizable defender, Dahlstrom more than doubled his point production from last season in fewer games played. Named an AHL All-Star replacement for Erik Gustafsson, Dahlstrom also made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks during the 2017-18 campaign and will figure to challenge for a spot on Chicago’s blue-line next season.
Gustav Forsling, Defenseman – (18 GP, 2 G, 3 A / 13 GP, 1 G, 4 A)
One of the more interesting defenseman in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Gustav Forsling had a difficult 2017-18 season. Bouncing between the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs, Forsling dealt with injuries that hindered his season. But, when healthy, Forsling showed flashes of why the Blackhawks still have a ton of faith that he will be able to play the role of a defenseman who can jump into the offense and produce points in the NHL. At 21-years old (turning 22 in mid-June), Forsling still has room for development, but figures to be in the mix for a spot on Chicago’s blue-line next season.
Robin Norell, Defenseman – (63 GP, 2 G, 5 A / No Playoff Stats)
Robin Norell had an odd 2017-18 season. As a defenseman, Norell played solid on both ends of the ice for the IceHogs, but ultimately found himself dressing for more games as a forward than a defender. Once the latter half of the season rolled around, and the Rockford blue-line took shape, Norell saw his spot in the lineup go away and he did not dress for the Calder Cup Playoffs. He’ll more than likely figure to be a part of the IceHogs defensive core again next season.
Viktor Svedberg, Defenseman – (73 GP, 6 G, 18 A / 13 GP, 0 G, 5 A)
A stalwart in the Rockford IceHogs organization for the last few years, Viktor Svedberg had arguably his best season of his career in 2017-18. His highest point total in his AHL career (24 points), Svedberg had a decent shot with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2015-16 season, playing in 24 NHL games, but it seems as if the organization may have moved on from the towering Swedish defenseman. An unrestricted free agent this summer, it will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks bring Svedberg back, as he has become an integrated part of the Rockford organization, but may not have an NHL future with Chicago.
Matt Tomkins, Goaltender – (8 GP, 1-4-2, 4.04 GAA, .871 SV%) / (No Playoff Stats)
Another goalie for the IceHogs who did a fair share of bouncing around this season was Matt Tomkins. While largely only playing in a backup role with the IceHogs, Tomkins was another first-year pro who made his debut with Rockford this season. Tomkins figures to be a starting option in net for the ECHL Indy Fuel next season, but could be a challenger for some AHL time too.
Victor Ejdsell, Forward – (5 GP, 0 G, 1 A) / (13 GP, 7 G, 5 A)
Acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade with the Nashville Predators, Victor Ejdsell came into the Chicago Blackhawks organization late in the year and quickly took the sting away from the Hartman deal for many fans. A big-bodied forward, Ejdsell played a handful of game with the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs once he arrived in North America and showed flashes of quick hands and a powerful shot from the wings. Ejdsell was a huge factor for the IceHogs in the Calder Cup Playoffs, scoring two overtime goals over the 13-game run. Ejdsell should get a chance with the Blackhawks early on next season.
Henrik Samuelsson, Forward – (25 GP, 9 G, 3 A) / (4 GP, 0 G, 0 A)
Henrik Samuelsson joined the IceHogs late in the season from the ECHL Idaho Steelheads and jumped right into the lineup in a way. Scoring a goal in each of his first three games, Samuelsson is a former-first round pick making his way back to the top leagues of North America. A big-bodied forward, Samuelsson was scratched to start the Calder Cup Playoffs for the IceHogs, but found his way back into the lineup later in the postseason. Samuelsson signed an extension into next season and should factor into the Rockford lineup as a regular.
Graham Knott, Forward – (70 GP, 4 G, 5 A) / (No Playoff Stats)
Another first-year pro making his debut with the Rockford IceHogs this season, Graham Knott had an underwhelming first year. Nine points in 70 games played for the former second-round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, Knott played a fourth-line role all season for Rockford before being scratched for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Another large-bodied forward, Knott will need to improve his strength and skating over the summer, but will have a spot with the IceHogs next season.
Darren Raddysh, Defenseman – (66 GP, 5 G, 17 A) / (9 GP, 0 G, 2 A)
Making his professional debut with the Rockford IceHogs this season, Darren Raddysh played his way into and NHL contract with the Chicago Blackhawks while in the midst of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Raddysh was a regular in the IceHogs defensive core, but was a scratch for the final few games of the postseason. He’ll be a factor in the Rockford blue-line again next season, maybe with an outside chance at making his NHL debut in 2018-19.
Luke Johnson, Forward – (73 GP, 13 G, 17 A) / (13 GP, 4 G, 4 A)
Luke Johnson made a huge leap from the 2016-17 to 2017-18 season. Playing in 73 games again this season, Johnson doubled his point production from last season and saw his on and off-ice responsibilities increase under head coach Jeremy Colliton. Johnson should be a key player for the IceHogs next season and could even make his NHL debut with the Blackhawks next season if Chicago gets bitten with injuries.
Nathan Noel, Forward – (17 GP, 1 G, 0 A) / (No Playoff Stats)
Nathan Noel had a tough season in his first year as a pro. Dealing with injuries and playing on the fence between the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL and the Indy Fuel in the ECHL, Noel made the most of his time with Rockford but left more to be desired. Next season should provide more opportunities for Noel at the AHL level, but he’ll need an impressive summer.
Matheson Iacopelli, Forward – (50 GP, 11 G, 8 A) / (No Playoff Stats)
One of the more interesting cases for the Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs organizations, Matheson Iacopelli has the skill-set to be a regular contributor at the AHL level and his shot has been said to be NHL quality. But, for some reason, although scoring at a 0.40 point per game pace over his 58 AHL games, Iacopelli was scratched and even sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL late in the season. In 10 games with Indy, Iacopelli scored 10 points (9 G, 1 A) and was quickly brought back to Rockford, but didn’t see any action in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He’ll factor into the IceHogs lineup next season, but wouldn’t hurt to have a standout summer.
Matthew Highmore, Forward – (64 GP, 24 G, 19 A) / (13 GP, 2 G, 7 A)
One of the more impressive first-year players with the Rockford IceHogs this season, Matthew Highmore went from undrafted free agent signing out of the QMJHL, to Rockford’s top goal-scorer in 2017-18. Setting the rookie goal-scoring record with 24 goals in 63 games, Highmore took over the production role, alongside Anthony Louis, when Vince Hinostroza left Rockford for his permanent stay with the Blackhawks early in the season. The Chicago Blackhawks took a flyer on Highmore and it has already paid off in one year for both organizations. He made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks late this season, including his first NHL goal, and will again be looked at as an option for the Blackhawks next season.
Anthony Louis, Forward – (70 GP, 14 G, 44 A) / (9 GP, 0 G, 5 A)
As mentioned above, Anthony Louis was one of the key players for the Rockford IceHogs all season. The 2017-18 points leader for Rockford, Louis emerged as one of the go-to players after Vince Hinostroza was recalled to the Chicago Blackhawks. In his first full year in the AHL, Louis showed that he has the speed and vision to create for his teammates offensively. He’ll need more time in the AHL to round out his game and will undoubtedly be one of the key players for the IceHogs next season.
Alex Fortin, Forward – (53 GP, 4 G, 21 A) / (1 GP, 0 G, 0 A)
Alexandre Fortin, by all accounts, had a fine first professional year in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. Outside of dealing with injuries, Fortin made his pro debut and did well in the role he was given by head coach Jeremy Colliton. The problem comes with the expectations that Fortin came into the Chicago Blackhawks organization with. He was a free agent signing and had a monster summer showing, enough to make some people believe he was NHL-ready. But Fortin’s first full pro season left something to be desired. If Fortin can have another decent showing over the summer, he’ll be a regular again in the IceHogs lineup and could potentially get his NHL shot in 2018-19.
William Pelletier, Forward – (69 GP, 14 G, 15A) / (13 GP, 2 G, 0 A)
Guess what? Another first-year pro! William Pelletier made a few appearances late last season for the Rockford IceHogs, but the 2017-18 season was his first full season in the AHL. A former Division III standout at Norwich University, Pelletier is another “water-bug” type of player in the Chicago Blackhawks system that has excelled with the IceHogs. Like Hinostorza and Anthony Louis, Pelletier uses his quick feet and playmaking ability to create offensive chances for his linemates and has an ability for finding open space to find his shot. Over his 77 career games with Rockford, Pelletier is playing at a .47 point per game pace and will be a regular for the IceHogs next season.
Luc Snuggerud, Defenseman – (40 GP, 5 G, 12 A) / (No Playoff Stats)
Another player hinder by the injury big this season, Luc Snuggerud made his pro debut in his first full year in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs this season. When healthy, Snuggerud was a regular part of the Rockford defensive core and showed the ability to play effectively at both ends of the ice. While healthy at the end of the season, Snuggerud was edged out in the defensive rotation and did not dress for any games in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Over his 53 career games with the IceHogs, Snuggerud is producing at a .42 point per game pace which is great from a defenseman. With a solid showing this summer, Snuggerud will be a regular part of the Rockford defensive lineup next season.
A GIANT thank goes out to the great Media and Communications staff with the Rockford IceHogs for providing all the videos of the exit interviews.
As the 2017-18 season comes to an official close for the Rockford IceHogs, it goes without saying that this squad came together under familiar circumstances with a rookie head coach being paired with so many first-year pros. The locker room gelled and added the right veteran pieces to produce some AHL magic and create a renewed vigor in the Rockford hockey community. Adam Clendening’s statement that this group was the most fun group he has ever played with spoke volumes to what Jeremy Colliton, the coach staff, and management did to rebuild the IceHogs from their disappointing 2016-17 run.
While the Chicago Blackhawks regulars have had their spring to relax and recover from last season, the IceHogs have been going through a tough Calder Cup Playoffs run. For most players, the offseason will be short as Summer Prospect Camp gets underway in the latter half of July, leading into the Rookie Showcase in Traverse City before Training Camp in late August. While the additions of new free agent and draft pick signings will re-shape the look of the IceHogs for the 2018-19 season, the organization is back on the right track and provides a hopeful look into the future of the Chicago Blackhawks.