By Chris Block
On Friday, the Rockford IceHogs officially released defenseman Brett Lebda from his second professional try-out contract with the club.
Lebda had been a healthy scratch in 5 of Rockford’s last 8 contests. The Buffalo Grove native and member of the 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings had appeared in 27 games for the IceHogs, posting 11 assists to go with a minus-12 plus/minus rating, worst on the team.
The IceHogs would have had to sign Lebda to a standard-player contract by February 17th or release him.
Lebda has never before played overseas but back in October he told us he had interest from a few teams in Europe and he would reconsider those if nothing presented itself after the NHL lockout ended.
MCARDLE SIGNS CONTRACT
Just three games into his PTO, Kenndal McArdle agreed to a contract with the Rockford IceHogs for the remainder of this season on Wednesday.
The Florida Panthers’ 2005 first round (#20th overall) draft pick has one assist in the three games since joining the IceHogs. He was also involved in the brawl with Grand Rapids last Saturday, getting ejected for a Third Man In violation.
McArdle played 9 games in the NHL last season with Winnipeg. So far he’s taking the spot on Martin St. Pierre’s left wing that was vacated by Brandon Saad.
In 169 career AHL games, McArdle has posted 30 goals and 61 points as well as 281 penalty minutes. He’s a quick north-south winger who willingly throws his 5-11, 190 pound frame around effectively. He’s been a nice fit thus far on St. Pierre’s wing.
ICEHOGS SIGN CENTER BRAD MILLS, WHILE ON ECHL SUSPENSION
Rockford quietly signed center Brad Mills to a professional try-out contract ten days ago, actually the day before they inked Kenndal McArdle to his PTO.
The IceHogs plucked Mills off the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) roster where he notched 15 goals and 35 points in 27 games. He also accumulated 116 penalty minutes and is currently serving a seven-game ECHL suspension for jumping off the player bench and bumping an official as he tried to get to an opposing player. So, in other words, he’ll fit right in.
His ECHL suspension is up on Sunday, but since that’s the day the AHL All-Star break begins, Brad Mills won’t be activated until Rockford’s game on February 1st in San Antonio.
Mills, 29, carries an interesting story as a recovering alcoholic who is also a converted Mormon.
A product of Yale University, where he was teammates with IceHogs goaltender Alec Richards, Mills spent several seasons in the New Jersey Devils organization prior to taking a step back to the ECHL this year during the NHL work stoppage.
The IceHogs are pretty high on what they expect Mills to bring to the club. He’s a right-handed centerman, which the IceHogs don’t have other than converted winger Jimmy Hayes right now.
Mills is a strong face-off man which Rockford is in desperate need of. He played in 31 National Hockey League games, all with the Devils, posting a goal and two points.
HENRIK KARLSSON CLEARS VISA ISSUE, ARRIVES IN ROCKFORD LATE FRIDAY NIGHT
Newly acquired goaltender Henrik Karlsson will have to wait another day before making his Rockford IceHogs debut.
Karlsson was unable to clear his working visa until Friday morning. He is expected to arrive in Rockford late on Friday evening.
MORE ICEHOGS ROSTER MANUEVERING
Rockford IceHogs general manager Mark Bernard was busy this week assembling a roster for tonight’s home game against the Chicago Wolves.
The IceHogs will be without regulars Kyle Beach, Wade Brookbank, Kenndal McArdle and Rob Flick, all suspended as result of last Saturday night’s bench-clearing brawl incident with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Beach, Brookbank and McArdle are eligible to return for tomorrow night’s home game against Oklahoma City. Flick will serve game two of his six game suspension for being the first IceHogs player off the bench to join in on the fracas with Grand Rapids.
As result of the suspensions dealt by the league, Rockford would have been down to 8 defenseman and 9 healthy and eligible forwards for tonight’s game.
Joe Lavin (right wrist surgery) is expected to return to the IceHogs lineup tonight against the Wolves. Lavin has been practicing with the team for over a week now. He’s missed the past 23 games with the wrist injury suffered on Nov 24th at Lake Erie.
Ben Smith (left hand) is still 2-3 weeks away from returning. Carter Hutton (hand) will miss his second-consecutive game tonight.
To help fill out a lineup card tonight, the IceHogs signed two players to Professional-Try Out (PTO) contracts.
Adam Hobson, currently of the Toledo Walleye, was signed.
Hobson was originally a 2005 – 7th round (203rd overall) draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. Hobson spent parts of the 2007-08, ’08-09 and ’09-10 seasons with the IceHogs before playing the past two seasons playing over in Sweden.
Hobson agreed to return to North America this past off season, signing an ECHL contract with the Toledo Walleye, an affiliate of the Blackhawks and IceHogs. His return was delayed though when he suffered an injury while working out in late summer.
Since getting healthy, Hobson has appeared in 16 games with the Walleye, scoring 4 goals and 6 assists. He’s also dropped the gloves on two occasions, including the night he made his season debut. Tonight Hobson will play in his 98th game as a member of the IceHogs. He has 8 goals and 25 points in his AHL career.
Rockford also signed center Mickey Lang to a PTO.
Lang is a former D-III collegiate star at Manhattanville College who has been playing for the Quad City Mallards of the CHL.
Mickey Lang, 26, posted a natural hat-trick for the Mallards last week in a game against the Denver Cutthroats (actual team name).
In 38 games this season, Lang has posted 22 goals and 47 points for Quad City.
Lang was born in Reno, Nevada but played Tier-III junior hockey in the state of New York for the New York Apple Core youth organization. With Apple Core, Mickey Lang played against now-Chicago Blackhawks prospect, and Lang’s teammate tonight, Jeremy Morin when Morin played for the Syracuse Stars.
Mickey Lang’s brother, C.J. Lang was once a prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization as a shortstop after graduating from UNLV in 2006.
Former Blackhawk Terry Ruskowski is the coach and general manager of the Quad City Mallards.
PARADIS – LAST OF THE 2009 CLASS
With Chicago Wolves center and Canucks prospect Jordan Schroeder making his NHL debut for Vancouver on Wednesday night, 29 of the 30 first-round draft picks from the 2009 NHL Draft have now played at least one game in the NHL.
The lone 2009 first-rounder not to is current IceHogs winger Philippe Paradis.
Paradis was drafted by Carolina as the 27th pick in 2009, one spot ahead of where the Blackhawks took defenseman Dylan Olsen. Paradis was only property of the Hurricanes organization for a handful of months before his rights were traded to Toronto in exchange for Jiri Tlusty on December 3, 2009. He was then traded again the following off season to Chicago, along with Viktor Stalberg and Chris DiDomenico, in the deal that sent Kris Versteeg and the rights to forward Bill Sweatt to the Maple Leafs.
Five players from the 2012 Entry Draft have made their NHL debuts in this, the first week of the shortened 2012-13 season. Ten players from the 2011 draft have appeared in at least one NHL game. Thirteen from the 2010 draft have skated in the NHL.
Going back the 2008 Draft, four of the thirty picks have not yet played in an NHL game.
That group is led by the Blackhawks’ Kyle Beach, who Chicago selected 11th overall. Nashville’s Chet Pickard (goalie, 18th overall) is currently playing for ECHL Cincinnati.
Thomas Hickey, a defenseman Los Angeles selected with the 4th overall pick in 2007 heads a group of seven first-rounders from that class who have yet to play in an NHL game. One in that group, Alexei Cherepanov, picked 17th overall by the Rangers, is deceased.
In prior years, the 2006 draft has three first-rounder who have no NHL experience to date; 2005 has three and 2004 has two. All 30 players selected in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft eventually made it to the NHL. The last in that class, Hugh Jessiman, debuted with the Florida Panthers in 2011 after being traded to Florida by the Blackhawks along with Jack Skille and David Pacan in exchange for Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak.
FACTS ABOUT THE GOALTENDING
I almost hate to do this because I don’t think the comparison is totally fair… but the numbers are what they are.
Carter Hutton has started 33 games this season for Rockford.
He has a save percentage is 90.3% and 2.88 GAA.
Last season in Rockford, Alexander Salak was 6-8-2-0 in 16 starts and 21 appearances.
Salak’s save percentage with Rockford was 90.3% and his GAA was 2.81.
Hutton’s numbers are down from last season in which he went 22-13-0-4 with a 91.7% save percentage and 2.35 goals against average.
Numbers put up by the IceHogs workhorses in previous seasons:
2010-11 – Hannu Toivonen, 90.7% sv, 2.90 GAA, 21-15-1-4
2009-10 – Corey Crawford, 90.9% sv, 2.67 GAA, 24.16-3-2
2008-09 – Antti Niemi, 91.3% sv, 2.43 GAA, 18-14-6-3
It’s AHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND
IceHogs captain Martin St. Pierre and rookie defenseman Adam Clendening will represent Rockford beginning Sunday at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence for this year’s AHL All-Star festivities.
St. Pierre comes into tonight’s action tied for 13th in the AHL in scoring. “MSP” leads the IceHogs with 15 goals and 20 assists.
Clendening is tied at 10th among all AHL defenseman in points. The Boston University alum has cooled down in the past few weeks though his 4 goals and 19 assists (23 points in 38 games) are still very impressive for a first-year blue liner.
FORMER ICEHOGS GETTING THE NOD
Former IceHogs center Bracken Kearns, now with the San Jose Sharks organization, was one of a handful of Sharks’ prospects who were invited to the abbreviated NHL training camp. The tough, 31-year old minor league journeyman played for Rockford during the 2009-10 campaign. He posted 15 goals, 51 points and 99 penalty minutes, playing in all 80 games for the IceHogs that season.
This year with Worcester, Kearns has 9 goals, 20 points and is a plus-1 in 36 games for the Sharks. Kearns was added to the AHL Eastern Conference All-Star Team on Wednesday as an injury replacement.
Also added to the Eastern Conference squad is Jeff Taffe.
Taffe, who will turn 32 next month, was the IceHogs leading scorer in 2010-11, notching 30 goals, 37 assists and a plus-10 in 74 games. He played in one game with the Chicago Blackhawks that season as well, a 2/12/11 contest at Phoenix where he saw six shifts and 4:05 of ice time.
In 38 games this season with the Hershey Bears, Taffe has 9 goals and 37 points. He has been reunited at Hershey with his 2010-11 Rockford IceHogs linemate, Ryan Potulny.
Also named to the AHL Western Conference All-Star team as more of a career achievement honor, is former Chicago Blackhawks prospect, forward Quintin Laing.
Mark Arcobello, who is about all of what’s left of the Oklahoma City Barons now, is also among the Western Conference All-Stars.
The 5-foot 9 center took part in the July 2009 Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp prior to his senior season at Yale University. In his first three seasons at Yale, Arcobello was a teammate of IceHogs goaltender Alec Richards. Coming out of Yale, Arcobello signed an AHL deal with Oklahoma City for the 2010-11 season. He was then signed to a two-year entry-level contract with the Oilers which will expire at this season’s end. In parts of three seasons with the Barons, Arcobello has played in 137 regular season games, scoring 38 goals and 59 assists for 137 points.
Laing was with the Blackhawks organization from 2000-2006, playing all but three games were spent with the Norfolk Admirals when that team was the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. Laing’s coach from 2000-05 was Trent Yawney, then he had Mike Haviland in 2005-06.
Coaches for this coming Monday’s AHL All-Star game are Luke Richardson (Binghamton) and Jon Cooper (Syracuse – coach of last year’s Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals) for the Eastern Conference. The West will be coached by Dallas Eakins (Toronto – 2012 Calder Cup finalist) and Jeff Daniels (Charlotte).
You can view the updated AHL All-Star game rosters on the AHL web site.
The game will be played on Monday, January 28th in Providence, Rhode Island. The skills competition takes place the night before.