Rockford IceHogs Mid-Term Grades: Forwards


As the AHL reaches the All-Star break and the Rockford IceHogs have nearly a week off, The-Rink takes a look at how the IceHogs have performed so far this season. Sitting in a tie for sixth-place in the AHL Central Division with a 19-19-8 record, good for 46 points in the standings, the IceHogs have work ahead of them in the back portion of the season if they are going to make a return to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Grading The Rockford IceHogs: Forwards

This season has been a frustrating one for the IceHogs offensively. They rank last in the league in goals per game (2.28) and total goals scored (105) and have a -25 goal differential. Much different from last season, where the IceHogs ranked 7th in total goals (239) and averaged 3.14 goals per game. Rockford lost one of their major contributors offensively early this season when Matthew Highmore went down with a shoulder injury in November. Pairing that with a few players under-achieving based on their performances last season and the IceHogs find themselves in their current position, lacking consistent offense.

Incompletes (Less than 15 AHL games played)

  • William Pelletier (14 GP, 2 G, 4 A, +3, 12 PIM)
    • Pelletier started the season on the sidelines, out with an upper-body injury. Since joining the IceHogs regular lineup, he has provided a bit of an energy spark, with the ability to provide some offense. Pelletier’s speed and ability to play above his size are his best assets.
  • Andreas Martinsen (9 GP, 0 G, 3 A, +/-0, 8 PIM)
    • After beginning the season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Martinsen made his AHL debut with the IceHogs earlier in January. Since joining Rockford, Martinsen has provided a physicality element that the IceHogs hadn’t had in the first half of the season. He’ll continue to be a large-body forward that can cause troubles around the net.
Matthew Highmore Rockford IceHogs

Matthew Highmore of the Rockford IceHogs. (Courtesy: Rockford IceHogs)

  • Matthew Highmore (8 GP, 3 G, 4 A, +2, 6 PIM)
    • As mentioned before, Highmore was lost from the IceHogs lineup in November due to a shoulder injury. Surgery will potentially keep him away from the ice for the rest of the regular season. If Highmore can return later this season and jump back into the lineup, the IceHogs hopefully will not be far from the playoffs so Highmore could be the extra offensive push they need.
  • Justin Auger
  • Brett Welychka
  • Hunter Fejes
  • Radovan Bondra
  • Connor Moynihan

IceHogs Forwards Report Cards

  • Anthony Louis (46 GP, 10 G, 17 A, -3, 14 PIM)
    • Leading the IceHogs in scoring, Louis has done everything asked of him from the IceHogs as far as point-production goes. The under-sized winger is a key figure on the powerplay, but a powerplay that ranks 30th in the AHL (15.1%). Grade: B
  • Jacob Nilsson (43 GP, 11 G, 9 A, -6, 18 PIM)
    • For his first season playing professionally in North America, Nilsson has been pretty much as advertised for the IceHogs. Playing in the top-six forwards group and on both the powerplay and penalty-kill, Nilsson plays a well-rounded game for the AHL level, but an extra-gear in his game would be welcomed for Rockford. Grade: B-
  • Alexandre Fortin (21 GP, 2 G, 4 A, +4, 4 PIM)
    • Beginning the season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Fortin was supposed to be a speed and energy spark at the NHL level. His finishing ability wasn’t up to the big league standards and his assignment to Rockford this season has seen the same results. Fortin is fast and always a danger on breakouts, but his finishing ability still leaves much to be wanted. Grade: C
Rockford IceHogs Dylan Sikura

Dylan Sikura of the Rockford IceHogs. (Courtesy: Rockford IceHogs)

  • Dylan Sikura (35 GP, 12 G, 14 A, +4, 6 PIM)
    • One of the few bright spots with the IceHogs offensive attack, Sikura has just about lived up to his billing coming into his first full season playing professionally. While his role with the Blackhawks was thought to be more of a top-nine scoring option, his abilities are still rounding out in the AHL. His speed and scoring touch have helped push Rockford but he needs more help. Grade: B+
  • Luke Johnson (25 GP, 7 G, 7 A, -8, 18 PIM)
    • Johnson started the season as a bottom-six option for the Blackhawks as former head coach Joel Quenneville was a fan of his game. Since being assigned back to the IceHogs, Johnson has shown what got him to the NHL in the first place, in bursts. Physical, hard-working, and with ability to score, Johnson’s filled his role with Rockford well, but development beyond last year seems marginal. Grade: C+
  • Matheson Iacopelli (27 GP, 2 G, 2 A, -7, 19 PIM)
    • Once thought to be on the cusp of being a top-nine forward option for the Blackhawks just less than two years ago, Iacopelli has yet to find his consistent role at the AHL level. Having spent quick stints with the Indy Fuel both last season and this season, Iacopelli may be falling out of favor with the Blackhawks organization in their long-term plans. Grade: C-
  • Jordan Schroeder (37 GP, 10 G, 14 A, -8, 8 PIM)
    • One of the more consistent offensive options the IceHogs have been able to call on this season, Schroeder has played his role as the veteran scorer perfectly. Holding the highest point-per-game rate of regular skaters this season, Schroeder may not be getting the call from the Blackhawks this season, but he continues to show why he has never had trouble scoring at the AHL level. Grade: B
Rockford IceHogs Jordan Schroeder

Jordan Schroeder of the Rockford IceHogs. (Courtesy: Rockford IceHogs)

  • Nick Moutrey (29 GP, 0 G, 1 A, -5, 18 PIM)
    • Size and aggressive play are the keys to Moutrey’s game for the IceHogs. Not looked at as a scoring option, head coach Derek King is a fan of using Moutrey in an energy role to help spark his teammates and be a pain to play against. But for a team that is at the bottom of production in the AHL, Moutrey will need to chip in a point here and there. Grade: C-
  • Nathan Noel (38 GP, 2 G, 4 A, -5, 47 PIM)
    • While Noel plays his role well for the IceHogs, his development beyond a pesky bottom-six forward hasn’t been there this season. While he plays with an edge, Noel is not the player you want to rely on to be a physical presence for your team. A bit more offensive production could show his skill-set is rounding out and make him more of a key figure for the IceHogs. Grade: C
  • Victor Ejdsell (35 GP, 6 G, 11 A, -5, 16 PIM)
    • It’s hard to call Ejdsell the most disappointing player on the IceHogs this season, given that his production is in the top-third of the team. When he made his debut with the IceHogs and Blackhawks last season, it appeared Ejdsell was next to be a fixture in Chicago’s forwards group. If Ejdsell could find his scoring touch on a more consistent basis, he could play his way back into consideration in Chicago and get Rockford back into the Calder Cup Playoff push. Grade: C
Rockford IceHogs Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell of the Rockford IceHogs. (Courtesy: Rockford IceHogs)

  • Terry Broadhurst (32 GP, 4 G, 5 A, -9, 12 PIM)
    • Broadhurst, much like Schroeder, was brought into the Rockford organization to provide a veteran presence to a young locker room and hopefully chip in offensively to push the team forward. While his locker room presence is regularly praised, his offensive output hasn’t been up to the level he has shown in the past. If he could regain a bit of that regular production, the Illinois native could help the IceHogs from a bottom-six perspective. Grade: C-
  • Henrik Samuelsson (40 GP, 2 G, 5 A, -8, 33 PIM)
    • Another player for Rockford that plays a physical game first, then focuses on offensive production, Samuelsson has shown in the past that he has more to offer. Scoring at nearly a half-point per game pace last season, he has yet to find that kind of pace this season. If Samuelsson could chip in an extra bit, the IceHogs could find themselves fighting out of the Divisional cellar. Grade: C-
  • Graham Knott (44 GP, 3 G, 7 A, -6, 20 PIM)
    • Knott has yet to show why the Chicago Blackhawks used their 2015 second-round draft pick on him in over a year and a half of AHL playing time. His skating and willingness to play physically has improved from last season to this season, but if there is more to see from Knott, he has yet to tap into it. On the positive side, he has already topped last season’s point total (9). Grade: C-
  • Tyler Sikura (33 GP, 6 G, 8 A, +2, 14 PIM)
    • Similar to the situation that Ejdsell is in from last season to this season, the elder Sikura has yet to find the form that made him third on the IceHogs last season in scoring. While Tyler’s game remains the same, playing as a net-front presence and being able to play on both the powerplay and penalty-kill, he has not found the same scoring touch that he had last season. Battling injuries, Sikura can hopefully return to the regular Rockford lineup and help improve the goal-scoring around the net. Grade: C+

While the IceHogs haven’t been playing too far below average for what their roster makeup currently consists of, it’s clear why the offensive production from the forwards group has been low. Missing from the equation this season is a legitimate AHL-level finisher for players like Louis, Schroeder, and Sikura to feed pucks to.

The potential for late-season reinforcements to arrive in Rockford is there, it hopefully will not be something that the IceHogs rely on. If they can find a way to increase production from within, they will have a shot at yet again making a late-season Calder Cup Playoff push. If not, it will be a short Spring at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Up next on Wednesday we will give out grades for the Rockford IceHogs Defenseman group.

What’s Next?

The Rockford IceHogs return to action following the AHL All-Star break on Friday, February 1 as they host the Chicago Wolves in another installment of the Illinois Lottery Cup Rivalry this season. Following Friday night’s game in Rockford, the IceHogs travel North to Milwaukee to take on the Admirals on Saturday night.

Puck drop on Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center is scheduled for 7pm CT. The IceHogs hold a 4-3-1 record against the Wolves this season. On Saturday night, puck drop is scheduled for 7pm CT at the UW-Panther Arena in Milwaukee. The IceHogs hold a 3-2-1 record against the Admirals this season.

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