With the ratification of the CBA, the Blackhawks were officially able to recall players from Rockford. Their first round of call-ups featured seven players: forwards Brandon Saad, Brandon Pirri, Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and defensemen Nick Leddy and Ryan Stanton.
There were not any surprises when it was announced that Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Nick Leddy were recalled. These four players had been in Chicago since the beginning of the week and didn’t play in any of the IceHogs’ three games in week 14 of the AHL season.
Obviously Blackhawks fans are familiar with this group of players; Leddy has played with the big club for the past season and a half, Kruger was with the Hawks for the past season and seven games in 2011, and Bollig and Shaw were with the team for the majority of the end of the 2011-12 season. But for those who may not remember them well–it has been a long time since April of 2012–here’s a quick synopsis of the quartet.
Nick Leddy is a speedy, puck-moving defenseman who has a bright future in the NHL. In 128 NHL games, he has registered 7 goals and 37 assists (44 points). He’s been a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ blue line over this time with the Blackhawks; he played in all 82 games for Chicago last year. In Rockford this season, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota native was playing on the top defensive pairing with Blackhawks prospect Adam Clendening. He appeared in 31 games and tallied 16 points (3 G, 13 A). Leddy played in all situations in Rockford. He was a key piece, not only to the defense in general, but to a power play that is clicking at a 20.2% rate, which is 5th in the AHL. Leddy also saw key minutes on the penalty kill. The 5-foot-11, 190 pound defenseman missed some time from October 27th to November 3rd with a concussion, and had some inconsistent moments for the IceHogs after that, but was still a very important part to all of Rockford’s success so far this season.
Many fans love a tough guy and that’s what they have in left winger Brandon Bollig. The 6-foot-3, 225 pound Bollig never shies away from confrontation and is always there for a teammate when someone decides to take liberties with them. Bollig played in 18 games for the Blackhawks in 2012 after skating in his first NHL game on February 29th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the postseason, the St. Charlies, Missouri native scored his first NHL playoff goal April 14th against the Phoenix Coyotes. This season in Rockford, Bollig surpassed his career high in goals and tied his career high in points in just 35 games. For 2012-13 in the AHL, he sits at 5 goals and 4 assists for 9 points; he had 4 goals in 2010-11. Bollig also was used a lot on the penalty kill in Rockford this season and saw a regular shift night-in and night-out. Bollig also leads the IceHogs in penalty minutes with 157, which is 3rd in the AHL. The Blackhawks need an enforcer type player and that’s exactly what they’re getting in Bollig.
The hunt for a second line center always seems to be on in Chicago and one of those guys that has been in the hunt for that job for the past season is Marcus Kruger. In 78 NHL games, the Stockholm, Sweden native has registered 9 goals and 17 assists (26 points). He racked up a +11 plus/minus rating in 2011-12 for the Blackhawks as well. Kruger is the 5th leading scorer for the IceHogs this season as the 5-foot-11, 172 pound center tallied 8 goals and 14 assists (22 points) in 34 games. Kruger, like Leddy, was used in all situations for Rockford. He was a key penalty killer–on both the 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 penalty killing units–and was used on the power play, be it at center or at wing.
The IceHogs have seen their fair share of suspensions this year in the AHL, and Andrew Shaw knows this fact all too well. He was suspended six games for his actions (flying off of the bench and joining into a fight) on November 3rd against Lake Erie and was suspended for one game for boarding Brett Sterling of the Chicago Wolves on November 28th. In the 28 games the 5-foot-11, 180 pound forward played in for the IceHogs, he tallied 8 goals and 6 assists for 14 points. His 84 penalty minutes rank 3rd on the roster behind Brandon Bollig and Kyle Beach. Many of those minutes are a result from Shaw’s style of play and that’s being an agitator. He’s essentially a Daniel Carcillo type player, but with more offense, and that’s exactly why the Hawks signed and called up him in January of 2012. Shaw spent 37 games with the big club in 2012 and racked up 23 points (12 G, 11 A).
The players that Hawks fans may not be as familiar with are Brandon Saad, Brandon Pirri, and Ryan Stanton. All of those guys are some of the IceHogs’ finest and won’t let their shot with the Hawks go to waste.
Many Blackhawks fans remember forward Brandon Saad from the first two regular season games of 2011-12 before he was sent back to Saginaw of the OHL and then when he was recalled and played in two playoff games for the Hawks in the postseason. Saad has carried loads of potential with him throughout that process and the excitement surrounding him is legitimate. In his first professional season, the Gibsonia, Pennsylvania native has shined for the IceHogs. In 31 games, Saad has put up 20 points (8 G, 12 A) which is good for 7th best on the team. His offense isn’t the only reason why people should be excited about this kid. His defense is outstanding. The 6-foot-1, 202 pound Saad is a good penalty killer and is great at utilizing his speed to get back and backcheck and take pucks away from unsuspecting opponents. His speed is second to none as he can take a few strides and just run away from everyone. His puck handling is fantastic, which allows him to hang onto the puck when there’s seemingly no way he can hang onto it any longer (see his game winning goal in overtime from January 12th in Milwaukee–props to Chris Block for finding/posting the highlights of the game.). Even with all his upside, he is still only 20 years old and is learning along the way. He started out the season slow and missed 7 games due to injury. He recently went through a slump where he didn’t score a goal in 10 games (from December 15-January 9th) and only had 4 assists in this time span, but picked it up in the last 2 games on the the offensive side of things. This weekend (January 11th-12th), Saad put up 6 points (2 G, 4 A), which included the game winning goals in both contests. There’s no need to rush Saad and more time in the AHL wouldn’t hurt his development in the least bit, but a recall for training camp is a good reward for what he has done so far this season.
When you look up the word, “warrior” in the dictionary, Ryan Stanton‘s picture is right there. The St. Albert, Alberta native is a classic stay-at-home defenseman and he means the world to the IceHogs’ blue line. Stanton has spent his whole time with the Blackhawks organization in Rockford, where he has blossomed into a very underrated player and become an anchor on the backend. Stanton is a great shot blocker, fantastic penalty killer, and character guy. He was the only IceHog skater to appear in all 76 games in 2011-12 and he’s been an alternate captain for the Hogs since the latter part of that season when Brian Fahey was named team captain after Brandon Segal was traded. In 189 games with Rockford, the 6-foot-2, 205 pound d-man has tallied 44 points (6 G, 38 A). This season, Stanton has yet to score a goal, but has nine assists and a +7 plus/minus rating, which is 3rd on the Hogs behind captain Martin St. Pierre and Blackhawks prospect Klas Dahlbeck. Stanton definitely deserves a shot with the big club, even if it’s just for training camp. He has worked so hard and come so far these past three season to earn this shot, and IceHogs fans should be proud to see their Warrior get this chance to shine.
Finally, there’s Brandon Pirri. The 6-foot, 180 pound, quick-skating center is the 3rd leading scorer on the IceHogs with 10 goals and 16 assists (26 point). He has also been a key piece to the success in the IceHogs’ power play where he has been used essentially everywhere, including the point. He added some muscle coming into the 2012-13 season and worked on some areas of his game that weren’t exactly there in the past couple of seasons and those would be his physicality and shot blocking. Over the course of this season, the Toronto, Ontario native hasn’t shied away from the physical side of the game and hasn’t been afraid to get in front of some shots. He’s not a stranger to Chicago either. Pirri has appeared in 6 games for the Blackhawks and has registered 2 assists.