By Chris Block
On Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks announced they have reached terms on a 1-year contract with center Pete Leblanc. It will be a two-way (NHL/AHL) agreement.
Leblanc was originally the Blackhawks 7th round selection (186th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. After spending four years at the University of New Hampshire, Leblanc turned pro with the Rockford IceHogs.
The Hamilton, Ontario native has spent the past two seasons with the Rockford IceHogs on AHL contracts as the Blackhawks had elected not to offer Leblanc an NHL contract until now.
In 70 games this season, Leblanc has posted 23 goals and 20 assists for the IceHogs. Since being a healthy scratch for three consecutive games in early November, Leblanc has scored all 23 of his goals over the most recent 61 contests.
He is currently tied for the team lead in goals scored (23) with Brandon Pirri. And Leblanc is second on the team in overall points, trailing Pirri by twelve points, with 43. Leblanc has a plus/minus rating of plus-2. It was Leblanc’s elevated level of play that caused veteran Brett McLean to slip down the IceHogs depth chart and even to the wing on the fourth line before McLean opted to play out the rest of the season in Switzerland.
Leblanc has provided good secondary scoring for the IceHogs. He’s spent the majority of his time centering the second line with Rostislav Olesz on his wing. That line was at its best when Jimmy Hayes before and between his stints on recall with the Blackhawks. Leblanc has been a regular on both special teams units and at age 24, is the fifth-oldest IceHogs’ forward.
His name is listed everywhere as “Peter” but he goes by Pete and actually prefers not to be called Peter.
ICEHOGS wrap the 2011-12 campaign this weekend
With their 3-0 loss to Charlotte in Rockford on Tuesday night, the IceHogs were officially eliminated from the postseason. In reality, their hopes were crushed after a 2-1 loss at Lake Erie last Friday. And their dreams were awakened after letting a 3-goal lead slip away in Lake Erie on Saturday, losing 4-3 again to the Monsters.
Expect this weekend to be a showcase for the youngest IceHogs.
Goaltender Kent Simpson is expected to get a start in one of the final two games this weekend. It was not surprising, but still noteworthy last weekend when Simpson dressed as Carter Hutton’s back for a game at Lake Erie. Alexander Salak has had a difficult season and a frustrating one on many levels but to see Simpson, with no pro experience, on the bench and one minor injury away from being on the ice in a must-win situation for the IceHogs was yet another telling sign that Salak’s days with the organization are coming to an end.
Look for 2011 first-round draft picks Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault to get plenty of ice time. McNeill got off to a rough start with the Hogs. He struggled in his first few games in dealing with the pace of action in the AHL. With the IceHogs in a do-or-die situation night after night in their playoff pursuit, McNeill was a healthy scratch for three consecutive games until injuries (Olesz) and suspensions (Flick) opened up a spot in the lineup last Saturday in Cleveland. In that game, McNeill took some ill-advised penalties that helped Rockford blow a 3-0 lead and cost them the game. When he was in the lineup, McNeill was skating between 7 and 10 minutes per game. McNeill will need another year in junior hockey.
Danault has incredible speed, as does recent college free agent signing Terry Broadhurst.
Broadhurst, 23, decided to turn pro after his junior season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Blackhawks signed him to a two-year contract on March 19th and he made his pro debut for Rockford on March 24 against Houston. The Blackhawks first approached Broadhurst about leaving college after his sophomore campaign, but he chose to stay and served as team captain for Nebraska-Omaha this past season.
Rockford closes out the season with a pair of games at the BMO Harris Bank Center tonight and tomorrow evening.
The Milwaukee Admirals visit the BMO tonight, Friday the 13th, less than two weeks since the IceHogs-Admirals bench-clearing brawl incident at Bradley Center on April 1st.
Both Rob Flick and Shawn Lalonde, each suspended 3 games for the involvement in that brawl, return from their suspensions just in time for tonight’s rematch.
Brandon Pirri and defenseman Brian Fahey (AHL contract) both missed Tuesday’s loss to Charlotte. Pirri (bereavement) had to return home and Fahey was with his wife, who was giving birth on Tuesday. Both are expected back for tonight’s match up.
The IceHogs close out the 2011-12 season on Saturday by hosting the Charlotte Checkers for the second time this week.
Both Charlotte and Milwaukee are bunched among seven teams in the Western Conference, all separated by just two points and all vying for playoff spots on this final weekend of the season.
So, the IceHogs will be looking to play the role of spoiler tonight and tomorrow.
Rockford has dominated Milwaukee this season. The IceHogs own a record of 9-1-0-1 vs Milwaukee in 2011-12. Charlotte has defeated the IceHogs in all three games played thus far at the BMO. On the season, Rockford is 2-3-0-2 against the Checkers.
–First-year winger Paul Zanette (right shoulder) returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing after sitting out seven games.
–Brandon Svendsen was designated as a defenseman in Tuesday night’s lineup with Brian Fahey having to miss the game. The forward, who turned 27 on Wednesday, played defense ahead of 6 foot-7 inch blue liner Simon Danis-Pepin. SDP, as he is called, has been a healthy scratch for the last 12 games and has not played since March 13th at Oklahoma City. Danis-Pepin, who is in the final year of his entry-level contract, has seen college free agent signing Connor Goggin, and ECHL signing Eric Baier, get into the lineup ahead of him before Svendsen.
–Players won’t find out whether or not they’ll be joining the Blackhawks next week as “Black Aces” until their exit meetings on Monday. Black Aces are essentially extra bodies kept around for practice purposes. It’s also a reward of sorts for the prospects who have had great seasons or have promising futures. Carter Hutton will be recalled to serve as the Blackhawks postseason emergency goaltender. For defenseman, Ryan Stanton and Joe Lavin will be brought up. Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin are the other for-sures. I’d say Phillip Danault is likely. Kyle Beach impressed a lot of people with his attitude and rehabilitation this season so its very possible he’ll be one as well. Beach being left out of last year’s ‘aces’ was considered big news at the time, but not surprising.
We don’t have an update yet on Rostislav Olesz’s injury (right leg) or the severity. He hasn’t played since injury himself before the brawl in Milwaukee on April 1st. If he’s healthy you’d figure he’d be recalled simply because he was paid 3.4 million this year to play in Rockford and has another $8.25M coming over the next two seasons if the Hawks can’t get someone to take that deal off their books. Ben Smith is also out and still recovering from hip surgery.
IceHogs current individual streaks of games without a goal: Simon Danis-Pepin (36), Shawn Lalonde (33), Byron Froese (25), David Gilbert (23), Joe Lavin (20), Eric Baier (19*), Ben Youds (15), Chris DiDomenico (14), Brandon Svendsen (13), Paul Zanette (13*), Connor Goggin (12*), Matt Fornataro (10), Terry Broadhurst (7*), Philippe Paradis (6), Phillip Danault (5*), Mark McNeill (5*), Wade Brookbank (4), Rob Flick (4), Kyle Beach (3), Brandon Pirri (3), David Toews (2*), Ben Smith (2), Brandon Bollig (1), Brian Fahey (1), Jeremy Morin (1), Pete Leblanc (1), Rostislav Olesz (1), Ryan Stanton (1)
*Denotes without a career AHL goal
IceHogs current individual streaks without an assist: Eric Baier (17), Simon Danis-Pepin (16), Brandon Bollig (15), Shawn Lalonde (14),Paul Zanette (13*), David Gilbert (8), Brian Fahey (6), Byron Froese (5), Mark McNeill (5*), Philippe Paradis (5), Ben Youds (5), Kyle Beach (4), Chris DiDomenico (4), Matt Fornataro (4), Pete Leblanc (4), Ryan Stanton (4), Terry Broadhurst (3), Rob Flick (3), Joe Lavin (2), Jeremy Morin (2), Rostislav Olesz (2), David Toews (2*), Wade Brookbank (1), Phillip Danault (1), Connor Goggin (1), Ben Smith (1), Brandon Svendsen (1), Brandon Pirri (-)
*Denotes without a career AHL assist