Mike Haviland won’t know the final makeup of his first Rockford IceHogs training camp roster for a couple of days. He’s confident, though, that the players he brings to the Riverview Ice House from the Chicago Blackhawks camp this Sunday will be skilled, tough, and to a certain extent, the players who were successful for him last season as members of the Norfolk Admirals.
Mike Haviland won’t know the final makeup of his first Rockford IceHogs training camp roster for a couple of days.
He’s confident, though, that the players he brings to the Riverview Ice House from the Chicago Blackhawks camp this Sunday will be skilled, tough, and to a certain extent, the players who were successful for him last season as members of the Norfolk Admirals.
“It may change because several guys who were with us last year have had really good camps here in Chicago and could make the Blackhawks,” the IceHogs’ coach said in a telephone interview. “But we should have a good core of possibly 10 or 11 players who were with us in Norfolk.”
Last season’s Norfolk Admirals, despite being one of the youngest teams in the league, were the first team to qualify for the AHL playoffs and finished the regular season third in the East Division with 50 wins, 22 losses, six overtime losses and two shootout losses.
They tied with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the third-most points in the league with 108.
IceHogs General Manager Al MacIsaac said Rockford’s first AHL entry will be young as well.
“Other than maybe one position,” MacIsaac said in a telephone interview, “our oldest player in terms of professional experience is a fourth-year or fifth-year player. There are no veterans on the roster at the current time, and we don’t anticipate more than one, although we’re allowed to have up to five.
“We’ve been very fortunate that (Blackhawks General Manager) Dale Tallon and the coaching staff have built up a stockpile of good, young players. When you do that, you’re able to build your club and your parent club with players you have developed yourself, and we’re just starting to realize the fruits of that.”
He said about 30 players will report to Rockford for Sunday’s first training camp workout. There is no limit to the number of players the IceHogs could keep, but MacIsaac said, because the league rules allow teams to dress no more than 17 skaters and two goalies per game, it is unlikely the team will keep more than 22 on the roster.
Haviland said two former Admirals who have shown well in the Blackhawks’ camp are wingers Troy Brouwer, the ninth-leading scorer in the AHL last season with 41 goals and 38 assists, and Kris Versteeg, who split time in the AHL last season with the Providence Bruins and the Admirals.
“These are two guys who did everything we asked of them in the offseason,” Haviland said. “And we’re going to have several guys who will be right on the cusp of being in the NHL. Possibly, as many as eight or nine of them could be in the NHL within the next couple of years.”
The IceHogs will play in the AHL’s West Division with the Chicago Wolves, Houston Aeros, Iowa Stars, Milwaukee Admirals, Peoria Rivermen, San Antonio Rampage and Quad City Flames, none of which played against Norfolk last season. Rockford is a new addition to the division this season and Quad City replaces the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, who played in Omaha, Neb., as the Calgary Flames’ affiliate.
“We won’t have seen them before,” Haviland said, “so, at least in the first go-around, we’ll really concern ourselves with playing our game and learning about them. I understand that it’s a very good division, so I think it’s going to be a great challenge.
“I think we’re going to see rivalries built right away. I think it’s going to be a great boost to hockey in the area, not that it has been doing too badly as it is.”
Haviland said the talent level he sees in the Blackhawks training camp indicates a bright future for the Blackhawks and the IceHogs.
“As well as things have been going here,” he said, “you’re always anxious to get your own training camp started and see where you are. Once we get going, we’ll have a very short time to get ready for the start of the season.”
Staff writer Mike DeDoncker can be reached at 815-987-1382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.