Don’t let anybody tell you that the American dream is no longer alive and well. Or in this case, a Canadian dream.
When the Blackhawks returned Tyler Motte to Rockford on Tuesday, they had two options to replace him if they wanted to recall another forward in his place. One option was to bring somebody up as somewhat of a direct replacement, meaning somebody to fill a bottom six role. The best option given that scenario would have been Martin Lundberg. Lundberg has shown the ability to play well in his own end while in Rockford and is willing to take the body on a regular basis.
Obviously the Hawks were looking to get the potential for more offensive punch when they recalled 28-year-old Ontario-born Spencer Abbott on Tuesday. It must have been tempting to bring Nick Schmaltz back after he has been able to show his terrific offensive skills in his brief time with the IceHogs, but the Hawks made the wiser choice when they decided on Abbott. He is a small player (5'9, 170 pounds), but before Schmaltz came he was easily the most offensively gifted player on the IceHogs.
Abbott currently has eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in 30 games, tying him for the team lead in points with Mark McNeill. (McNeill would have been tabbed here as another option aside from the fact that Hawks brass doesn't seem much interested in giving him a chance.) Abbott is also tied for the team lead in power play goals with three. He skates well with good speed, makes accurate passes while showing good vision on the ice, and he certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net.
This is his second stint with the Blackhawks organization and in 217 career AHL games has put up 169 points (57 goals and 112 assists). He has spent those years with the Toronto Marlies in addition to Rockford. He also spent time in Sweden during the 2015-16 season with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. There he totaled 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in 42 games.
Now after just over five years in the AHL and one in Sweden, Abbott is getting the opportunity that dreams are made of. While he was expectedly excited to be called up to the NHL, where he has played only one game in his career, getting the chance to skate with two future Hall of Famers takes that excitement to a whole new level. It also ratchets up his chance to make a statement that he belongs in the NHL.
Everyone knows the Hawks have been looking to fill the LW void alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa for longer than anybody would like. Abbott will be getting that chance. Instead of playing with fourth line talent where Abbott’s offensive prowess would likely go unnoticed, he’ll be skating with two players who can bring out the best of what he has to offer.
One might wonder if a journeyman forward has what it takes to be successful in a position that has been left available by more highly touted names. He has the skating ability, the vision, and the quick-release shot to reap the benefits of skating with his new line mates.
Also at 28, Abbott has the maturity that has not been offered by several of those who’ve skated in the opening with Toews and Hossa this season. It would certainly come as a surprise to many to see him take a spot on a Blackhawks’ power play that, at 15th in the NHL, could definitely use a boost. Abbott has been on the first power play unit in Rockford. With his offensive skills he is even able to take the point on the man advantage at times.
There is no doubt this is the chance of a lifetime for Abbott. His hard work over the years now has the chance to pay off. At this point, it’s all up to him to make his dreams come to fruition. Of course, he’ll be getting by with a little help from his friends.