The Rockford IceHogs greatly benefited from the Chicago Blackhawks making a low-risk, high-reward decision last summer. Matthew Highmore was an undrafted free agent out of Saint John in the QMJHL coming off of a 34-goal season when the Blackhawks organization signed him in the summer. He rewarded the organization with an IceHogs record-setting 24 goals in his first professional season.
Matthew Highmore Sets Goal-Scoring Record In Rookie Season
Highmore joined the IceHogs after a relatively promising showing in the summer Development Camp and rookie tournament in Traverse City. After beginning the season with five points in the first three games, Highmore began to level off into a consistent contributor for Rockford. In November, he notched his first of two hat-tricks last season, the second of the two coming a month later in late December.
After Vince Hinostroza and Erik Gustafsson were originally named to the AHL All-Star Weekend, Highmore, along with teammate Carl Dahlstrom, were named AHL All-Star Weekend replacements for the IceHogs.
Highmore not only made his professional debut with the IceHogs last season, but also made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks on March 1. In 13 games with Chicago last Spring, Highmore tallied two goals, with his first NHL goal coming against the Bruins on March 10.
The experience in the NHL showed for Highmore upon his return to the IceHogs in late March, finishing the final eight games of the regular season with eight points en route to 24 goals and 19 assists on the season. He finished second on the IceHogs in scoring with 43 points, one behind team-leader Anthony Louis.
Final Season Grade: A-
In the Calder Cup Playoffs, Highmore continued to be one of the key contributors for Rockford. Over the 13-game Calder Cup Playoffs run, he tallied nine points (2G, 7A), including three multi-point games.
At 22-years old, Highmore has time to find more of what his true potential holds. As he is right now, with two years left on his entry-level contract, there is a real chance that Highmore is a regular in the Chicago NHL lineup by the end of next season. Able to play down the middle at Center or on the Wing, the versatility that Highmore brings to his game makes him a valuable asset to the Blackhawks organization.
Obviously the scoring touch is there, but IceHogs Head Coach Jeremy Colliton regularly used Highmore in all situations of the game and has the ability to do the same at the NHL level. Realistically, the ceiling for him maybe lay in a third-line role of the Blackhawks by this time next season.