After their third regulation loss on the season to the Chicago Wolves on Tuesday by a score of 3–2, the Rockford IceHogs remain winless, going 0–3–1 in their first four games this season. It is disappointing, but not from a lack of effort from Rockford Head Coach Derek King’s unheralded crew.
The team has gotten solid performances, for instance a two-goal game from Brad Morrison against the Iowa Wild, and long-time AHL netminder Matt Tomkins has been kicking out all he can, yet due to a young and rather exciting youth movement on West Madison Street in Chicago, the Hogs do not have the usual depth to compete.
Highlights 🎥: We strike twice in 19 seconds in the third period, but the Chicago Wolves hold on for a 3-2 win. Forward Chris Wilkie grabs a goal and an assist and defenseman Isaak Phillips nets his first pro goal. pic.twitter.com/VMqjH4VCrv
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) February 17, 2021
The Chicago Blackhawks began the season knowing that they would be younger defensively, but few were prepared for the injuries to Kirby Dach, Alexander Nylander and Jonathan Toews. With younger defensemen already penciled in, the Blackhawks have featured anywhere from six to seven rookies a night in their lineup.
MacKenzie Entwistle, one who was looking to make a more significant impact on the Hogs this season, has been up with the Blackhawks but out of the lineup or on the taxi-squad. Though assigned back to Rockford this past week, he has yet to dress for a game. After two games with the IceHogs, Wyatt Kalynuk has been called up to the Blackhawks, as has Reese Johnson. In addition, it was unclear whether current Blackhawk regulars Nicolas Beaudin, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev and Kevin Lankinen would see time with the IceHogs, and now they are with the big club to stay.
Both Morrison and Chris Wilkie have been recent bright spots for the Hogs. Chad Yetman has also had a good start with three points in his first three games, Evan Barratt, a solid prospect for the Blackhawks, has slowed since his hot first game, but will continue to grow as a player. Chad Krys and Cody Franson have been anchoring a young defensive unit that has yet to see Alec Regula come into professional form. But, other than John Quenneville and a few others, the forwards in Rockford had limited, if any, AHL experience entering this season. Barratt, Wilkie, Andrei Altybarmakian, Matej Chalupa, Mitch Fossier and others are learning on the fly as first-year pros.
As the season moves along, the Hogs will chip away at the win column, but in a short 30-game season, they will find themselves out of the Calder Cup picture. Let’s hope they stay competitive and some of the younger players of promise develop their games.