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Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King ‘looking forward to clean slate’

The 52-year-old is eager to start his first full season as head coach.

Rockford IceHogs

ROCKFORD — A lot has changed within the Blackhawks organization in the past year with new head coaches at the NHL, AHL and ECHL levels.

Joel Quenneville is out in favor of Jeremy Colliton in the NHL. Derek King is now the head coach of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs after two seasons as an assistant, including one under Colliton. And Doug Christiansen enters the organization as the ECHL coach and general manager after Bernie John and the Indy Fuel mutually parted ways.

The Blackhawks front office, Colliton and players have expressed throughout the offseason how beneficial it’ll be for the team to have a full training camp under Colliton to learn and implement his systems. King expressed a similar sentiment Sunday on the first day of the IceHogs training camp at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.

“The big thing is it’s my own now,” said King, who was named the interim coach only 12 games into last season when Colliton was promoted. “It’s like we started last year when Jeremy was coaching and I sat in the weeds and filled in the blank spots. Right now, it’s on me to get this rolling and have a plan in place.

“It feels good to be the boss.”

The IceHogs went 35-31-4-6 last season — with a 29-28-3-4 record under King — and were in the hunt for an AHL playoff spot until the second-to-last day of the regular season. The Blackhawks removed King’s interim tag in late April and signed him to a two-year extension. King knows there’s added expectations this upcoming season for him at the helm.

“There’s definitely a lot more pressure, obviously,” King said. “Last year... it was a lot, and I’ll admit it was hard. Being an assistant, it’s not that it’s an easy job, but it’s a little less stressful.

“Maybe it was just the year I had with us having so many injuries and so many different bodies (in and out of the lineup)... to learn how to manage guys. It helped in the long run. I’m looking forward to a clean slate with a healthy preseason and no injuries, and it’ll be a lot easier on me.”

With the Blackhawks having a split-squad preseason game Saturday against the Bruins, King will only have five days of training camp to decide which players he’ll take to Boston. He plans to use this week to evaluate and get to know players — even those he knows will play in the ECHL.

“Obviously, there are guys here I don’t know,” King said. “There’s going to be a lot of guys turning pro that are young and I don’t know a whole lot about. Obviously, I’ve seen some of them at prospect camp and going through all the development drills. I got see a little bit of them in exhibition games, but we’ll get a better feel for them running my own practices and on the ice with them everyday.”