By Chris Block
Word is the NHL is releasing its 2012-13 regular season schedule on Thursday.
–Rockford IceHogs re-signed forward Brandon Svendsen to an AHL contract for the 2012-13 season on Tuesday.
The 5-10, 176 pound Svendsen appeared in 39 games with the IceHogs last season after joining the team on January 10th. The Minnesota native posted 4 goals and 10 assists for Rockford. Two of Svendsen’s goals were game-winners and his tally with 43 seconds left in regulation in the season finale on April 14th sent that game to overtime.
Svendsen was signed to a professional try-out contract on January 10th and made his IceHogs debut in Rosemont for a Wednesday matinee game against the Chicago Wolves.
At the time, Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith were all on recall with the Blackhawks. Other IceHogs forwards Rostislav Olesz and Kyle Beach were each sidelined with shoulder injuries, creating an opening for Svendsen.
Svendsen fit in so well in a bottom six utility role that he was signed to a standard AHL contract for the remainder of the season on January 23rd. On Tuesday, Chicago Blackhawks Director of Minor League Affiliations Mark Bernard secured Svensen for another season.
“We are very excited about having Brandon back with the IceHogs for the upcoming season,” Bernard said in a press release.
“His character and ability as a player were evident this past season and his veteran presence is a great fit for our younger locker room.”
Svendsen was invited to last year’s IceHogs training camp but was released. He wound up with the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings where he posted 13 goals and 36 points in 28 games before getting the call from Rockford in January.
Previously he’s been under AHL contracts with the Binghamton Senators and Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He’s a strong forechecker and was a good penalty killer for the IceHogs.
Svendsen even played defense for the IceHogs on April 10th in a home game against the Charlotte Checkers. Rockford lost the game 3-0. The ‘Hogs defense that night was decimated with Dylan Olsen on recall, Shawn Lalonde on suspension and Brian Fahey missing to be with his wife for the birth of their child. So the IceHogs dressed Ryan Stanton, Joe Lavin, Ben Youds, Connor Goggin (PTO), Eric Baier (PTO) and Svendsen on the blue line. To show how bad things got for Simon Danis-Pepin, he was a healthy scratch that evening.
–Alexander Salak, 25, agreed to a two-year contract with Farjestad of the Elitserien (Swedish Elite League) on Tuesday.
Farjestad is where Salak played during the 2010-11 season while on loan from the Florida Panthers before returning to North America to play for the Blackhawks organization.
In 32 regular season games with Farjestad, Salak posted a 1.97 goals against average and 92.6% save percentage. Salak ranked second in the SEL in both categories that season. He also posted seven shutouts. His numbers dropped off a bit in nine playoff games and a shoulder injury ended his playoff after winning the first game of the Finals. Yet, Farjestad went on to win the Elitserien playoff championship over Skelleftea 4 games to 1 with backup Cristopher Nihlstorp in their net for the final four series contests. Nihlstorp signed with the Dallas Stars organization earlier this month.
We’ll have a lot more tomorrow on Salak’s brief Blackhawks’ escapade as well as thoughts on the recent club signings.
–Late last month the Blackhawks held a private two-day prospect mini-camp in Chicago. That included prospects from this past season’s Rockford IceHogs, unsigned draft picks in the junior and collegiate ranks. Players from Brandon Pirri to Michael Paliotta attended. One signed prospect who did not attend was Shawn Lalonde. Apparently Lalonde was not invited.
This was mostly a conditioning and orientation camp. Players were advised on summer workout programs and had their strength and conditioning evaluated. There was some light skating. It was at this mini-camp that Adam Clendening agreed to his three-year entry level contract.
Many of the Blackhawks prospects are spending all or a good part of their summer’s here in Chicago.
Ben Smith and Joe Lavin are living in Chicago together this summer. Kyle Beach is spending the majority of his summer here as well.
There’s a growing mentality that is quickly becoming a big part of how prospects are being evaluated. Basically players who are around and working out at the Blackhawks facilities, and under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman, are seen as guys who are more dedicated and motivated to becoming NHL players than others who are not willing to spend their summers working out and living in Chicago.
For guys not currently in Chicago or don’t have plans to spend any more time than they need to here this summer – I’d reconsider those plans. In the future, if you’re a prospect looking to gain an edge, improve your standing or simply get noticed you’d be advised to set aside some of the signing bonus and spend your summer here too.
–Stan Bowman held a pre-draft posturing teleconference with the media on Tuesday. To summarize, he said everyone is doing fine. Hossa and Montador (concussions) are progressing, Carcillo (knee) is almost 100% and Ben Smith (hip/hernia) will be by training camp. Stan says he likes his team right now but for sure is always looking to improve.
–The Washington Capitals CSN (Comcast SportsNet) blog speculated on Tuesday that former Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland could currently be the top candidate for the vacant Capitals’ head coaching job.
Chuck Gormley of the Capitals Insider blog also reports that Jon Cooper, coach of the AHL Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals, will interview with Caps’ GM George McPhee this weekend at the Draft.
–Curt Fraser, who played for the Blackhawks in the 80’s, has joined the Dallas Stars coaching staff as an assistant. Fraser has served as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins (Red Wings AHL affiliate) for the past four seasons compiling a record of 146-130-18-22 (.525 points earned percentage).
Fraser takes the spot formerly filled by Willie Desjardins, who left his assistant’s job on the Stars to take the head coaching position for the Dallas’ AHL affiliate Texas Stars. The two-year contract extension Fraser signed with the Red Wings organization in August of 2010 was set to expire when Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk called Detroit to inquire about Fraser’s availability.
Curt Fraser is thirteen and half years older than current Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan, who will turn 41 in August.
–Former Blackhawks defenseman Phil Housley will coach Team USA at the 2013 IIHF World Championships taking place in Ufa, Russia from December 26, 2012 until January 5, 2013.
One of Housley’s assistants will be Grant Potulny, who is the older brother of former Blackhawk and Rockford IceHogs center Ryan Potulny.
–USA Hockey named the 46 invites to its World Junior Evaluation Camp this week. The camp takes place from August 4 – 11 in Lake Placid, NY. The camp will consist of practices, intrasquad scrimmages and exhibitions games between the U.S. players and Sweden and Finland.
Defenseman Mike Paliotta and forward Alex Broadhurst are the two Chicago Blackhawks prospects invited amongst the 46 players.
Paliotta will be a sophomore at the University of Vermont. The big, brooding defenseman was drafted 70th overall by Chicago in the third round of last summer’s entry draft. Broadhurst opted not to join the University of Nebraska-Omaha for his freshman year in the fall and is expected to play for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Dale Hunter, who stepped down from behind the Washington Capitals bench last month will return to London to coach the Knights this coming season.
Of the 4 goalies, 17 defenseman and 25 forwards heading to the camp, 7 players are from the Chicago area: goaltender Garret Sparks (Elmhurst, IL), defenseman Connor Carrick (Orland Park), Robbie Russo (Westmont) and forwards Alex Broadhurst (Orland Park), Thomas DiPauli (Woodbridge), Ryan Hartman (West Dundee) and Stefan Matteau (Chicago).
Downers Grove native Tony Granato will be one of the coaches leading Team USA’s evaluation camp in Lake Placid. Granato is an assistant on Dan Bylsma’s staff in Pittsburgh.
–Milwaukee Admirals named Dean Evason their new head coach.
With Curt Fraser leaving the Griffins, this leaves Grand Rapids and the Chicago Wolves as two AHL franchises still searching for a new head coach.
Should Mike Haviland not get the Capitals job he will pursue an AHL head coaching job over another assistant’s gig on an NHL bench. It shouldn’t be hard for Haviland to land one of the AHL openings as long as the Capitals interview process doesn’t drag out too long. If Haviland goes from being fired from one assistant’s job to taking another, he runs the risk of getting pigeon-holed as a career assistant coach. It’s also not in his best interest to sit out right now. Fired assistant coaches, no matter the circumstances, are not hot NHL head coaching commodities mid-season. This is really a crucial period in Haviland’s coaching career.
–One-time Blackhawk center Samuel Pahlsson will play in his native Sweden next season. Most recently a member of the Vancouver Canucks, Pahlsson, 34, signed with MODO in the Swedish Elite League. The 11-year NHL veteran of 798 regular season games leaves North America with 68 goals and 199 career points to his credit. Pahlsson previously played for MODO from 1994-2000 before coming to the NHL.
–Left winger Mike Hedden, 27, who played one game for the Rockford IceHogs in March of 2011 under a professional try-out deal, re-signed with the Texas Stars under an AHL contract for the 2012-13 season.
Hedden posted 19 goals and 34 points in 69 games for Texas last season. He was briefly an IceHog under an emergency basis after Evan Brophey received a season-ending suspension for a blindside hit on Hamilton’s Hunter Bishop. Igor Makarov had also gone down with an injury necessitating an emergency roster addition.
Bishop, a former Ohio State Buckeye, has not played in a game since the Brophey hit on March 25, 2011.
Hunter Bishop spent the entire 2011-12 season on the injured reserve list. The hit was virtually identical to the Joe Thornton-on-David Perron hit from November 4, 2010.
–Former IceHogs forward Pete MacArthur turns 27 today.