Blackhawks AHL prospect update for 5/8: Phillips, Vlasic shine in playoffs
The IceHogs season ended on a disappointing note in the playoffs, but a couple of defensemen still had standout performances.
It’s the final check in on the Chicago Blackhawks prospects playing in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs.
It's been over seven weeks since our last update on the IceHogs, so a lot has happened in that span: Rockford played in 14 games to close out the regular season and then in five postseason games before being knocked out of the playoffs. Rockford ended up winning eight of those last 14 games, including the last game of the season against the Milwaukee Admirals – a necessary victory just to make the postseason. This brought their final record for the season to 35-28-5-4 and the exact same 0.549 points per percentage as last year's 37-30-4-1 record.
The IceHogs also ultimately finished the playoffs the same as last season as well: they swept their opponent in the best-of-three play-in round to open the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, but then Rockford was swept.
- Regular Season Stats: 51 points (20 G, 31 A) in 55 games played
- Postseason Stats: 1 points (1 G, 0 A) in 5 games played
Reichel spent much of the last few months with the Blackhawks, but when he returned to Rockford, he picked up five more points (3 G, 2 A) in the final four games. This brought his season point-per-game rate to 0.93.
Unfortunately, Reichel did underperform in the postseason when it came to production, finishing with just one goal in five games. He had just two goals in five games last year in the postseason as well. Arguably, some of the issue is the IceHogs roster construction: it's very easy for opponents to shut down a single player or line when there aren't many other offensive threats on the team. It's the second year in a row a team has double-teamed Reichel in an effort to mitigate the IceHogs offense – and it worked.
That's not to say that Reichel didn't have issues at an individual level because he did. The best illustration of this was Game 1 against Texas, which was easily Reichel's worst game this season – perhaps ever. He had a few blind passes and turnovers that resulted in scoring chances or goals against. He also mishandled the puck and he wasn't clicking with his linemates in the offensive zone at all. Reichel was more composed the rest of the playoffs, but it wasn't his best showing.
Despite the less-than-ideal performance, Reichel did have opportunities and show off some of his offensive skills throughout both series:
Reichel has been a decent two-way forward for a few years: he's usually responsible defensively and tries hard to break up plays when needed. It's unlikely he'll ever be a Selke candidate, but he typically holds his own.
Also of note, a report has come out recently that Reichel will not join Germany for the World Championship due to an injury suffered during the Iowa series, so it's very likely that impacted his play in the playoffs.
- Postseason Stats: 0 points in 3 games played
Luypen only played three games with the IceHogs this season – all during the Texas playoff series – and didn't register a point, but he made a decent impression in those three games. He slotted in as fourth-line center, with that group playing as an "energy" line with some defensive responsibilities. Luypen did a great job embracing the energy part of the role: he's tenacious on the forecheck, is very willing to engage in board battles, and seemingly never gives up on a play. He's got solid offensive instincts as well as above average skating, but it's unknown if the former will translate to the NHL.
Luypen is also the type of player who will assist in offense without showing up on the scorecard. An example of this: here he is battling in front of the net to screen the opposing goalie on a shot (on the shot prior to the goal):
Mark Eaton, the Blackhawks assistant GM of player development, said this about Luypen:
“Jalen at the center position, just leads with the high motor that he has. That speed and compete level, putting those together makes him play at an extremely high RPM, and he brings it every shift. Penalty killer with the speed and bottom-six-type guy but also has a ceiling, let’s see what he can do offensively. Another guy we’re excited to get in and get into the pro level and see how he transitions.”
- Regular Season Stats: 18 points (5 G, 13 A) in 58 games played
- Postseason Stats: 0 points in 5 games played
Hardman picked up an additional goal and assist in the final nine regular season games, but he didn't register a point in the postseason. While Hardman was still very solid defensively, this season was definitely disappointing offensively for him after 32 points in 43 games (0.75 PPG) last season. His tough, physical style of play could lend itself to a checking-line role in the NHL, it just seems unlikely he'll have the hands to be able to produce enough to be in the top nine.
Hardman also did take penalty at an inopportune time that shifted momentum. It came during Game 1 against Texas, allowing the Stars to tie the game at 3-3 in the third.
- Regular Season Stats: 25 points (9 G, 16 A) in 56 games played
- Postseason Stats: 3 points (2 G, 1 A) in 5 games played
Teplý was one of the few IceHogs who was producing at a decent clip down the stretch: he had seven points (2 G, 5 A) in final 13 games. He finished with a 0.45 points-per-game rate, down from his 0.52 rate last season. Again, depth of the roster likely affected Teplý's offense, though it also illustrated that he's the type of player who needs to be in an ideal role to produce.
In the playoffs, Teplý was also one of the few to produce, scoring two goals and adding an assist. His line with D.J. Busdeker and Buddy Robinson was one of the best during the Texas series, though some of that was due to the Stars focusing on shutting down the top two lines more.
Teplý was also did well on the IceHogs power play as his assist and goal against Iowa came with the man advantage.
- Regular Season Stats: 5 points (0 G, 5 A), 53 SOG in 62 games played
- Postseason Stats: 0 points in 2 games played
Crevier earned the title Most Improved in the Rockford end-of-year player awards, mostly due to the strides he took defensively this season. However, after playing in every game when healthy this season, Crevier only drew into two games in the postseason, sitting in favor of veteran Andy Welinski until the final games.
Still, while Crevier has kinks in his game to work out – specifically his puck handling and maneuverability – his solid progression in other areas was good to see.
- Regular Season Stats: 29 points (3 G, 26 A) in 64 games played
- Postseason Stats: 3 points (0 G, 3 A) in 5 games played
Galvas added another goal and four assists in the final 14 games of the season, fluctuating between the second and third pairs on defense, depending on his partner. He picked up three more assists in the playoffs.
It also looks like Galvas' time with the Blackhawks organization is coming to a close: he signed with the SHL's Malmö Redhawks for the upcoming season.
- Regular Season Stats: 23 points (6 G, 17 A) in 51 games played
- Postseason Stats: 3 points (1 G, 2 A) in 5 games played
Phillips had one of the his lowest offensive periods of the season in his final 14 games, producing two goals and one assist in that span. Still, he was easily the IceHogs best two-way defenseman for the season, playing in all situations.
In the playoffs, Phillips continued his strong play, especially in the Iowa series where he had a goal and two assists. His excellent skating was on display on multiple occasions at both ends of the ice. Here is an example of Phillips' transition ability at the start of a play – the puck handling and chip to himself off the boards is so smooth – and then his agility to move around players before the first assist on Brett Seney's goal:
Defensively, Phillips typically uses a smart stick in play break-ups, but he does know how to be physical when needed as well. In the clip below, he prevents a zone entry on Iowa by cutting off the opposing player along the boards:
Phillips was pretty quiet against Texas, but that seemed to be a team-wide issue for the most part. He's usually one of the best defensive prospects at reading plays and adjusting when needed, but the Stars series saw him make a few more mistakes in that regard than usual. An example of this was on Michael Karow's goal in Game 2 (shown starting at the 2:58 mark):
- Regular Season Stats: 19 points (5 G, 14 A) in 40 games played
- Postseason Stats: 1 points (0 G, 1 A) in 5 games played
Regula had a soft landing for the season offensively with just two assists in his final 11 games. He did miss time in the final three months both for a lower-body injury and a concussion, so it's likely that his performance was impacted by that.
In the playoffs, Regula was on the top pairing with Phillips for the entire run, though Vlasic ultimately got more playing time overall. Despite only picking up one secondary assist, Regula looked really solid during the Iowa series and likely could have had more points if the forwards could finish better. Regula also did have his moments defensively and physically:
Like everyone else, though, the Texas series was kind of rough for Regula as he became either pretty invisible or had some miscues with the puck that were costly.
- Regular Season Stats: 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in 39 games played
- Postseason Stats: 1 points (0 G, 1 A), 61 SOG in 49 games played
Roos played in only 10 more games to end the season, adding another two assists to bring his total to 11 points in 39 regular season games. He picked up one other assist in the playoffs as well.
Roos is an interesting player because while he's not usually a standout, he's also not prone to make many mistakes. Roos has the skills to play in the NHL – his skating is strong, his passing is above average, and he reads plays well – so it'll be interesting to see how the Blackhawks treat him considering how crowded the defensive prospect pool is currently.
- Regular Season Stats: 15 points (2 G, 13 A), 49 SOG in 47 games played
- Postseason Stats: 5 points (0 G, 5 A) in 5 games played
Vlasic had as good of a rookie season in the AHL as you could want from a player: he improved on his already above average defensive capabilities while adding more offensive awareness to his game. His positioning, long reach, and on-ice vision make him a threat to break up plays in all situations, but especially in the defensive zone. As a result of his excellent performance, Vlasic was named Rockford's top defenseman this season.
Offensively, Vlasic finished the regular season with four more assists in his final nine games. Most were the result of his ability to get shots on goal, which created rebound opportunities, but his offensive zone passes were solid as well.
The postseason was also a great showcase for Vlasic, and interestingly, he was the only player on the IceHogs to go a point-per-game. Again, his ability to get his shot through traffic was key to three of these assists, creating a deflection or rebound opportunity:
Vlasic had several other good passing plays that show that he can use his stick at both ends of the ice:
And of course, Vlasic was quite the star defensively as well, especially in the Texas series. The Stars just had difficulty handling Vlasic.
- Regular Season Stats: .905 save percentage, 2.92 goals against average in 33 games
- Postseason Stats: .895 save percentage, 3.18 goals against average in 6 games
The IceHogs really relied heavily on Söderblom down the stretch, and he started in all but two of the final 14 games of the season. He finished with a near-elite save percentage of .920 in that span, and he was, definitively, the main reason the IceHogs snuck into the playoffs despite having very little goal support the final few months.
In the playoffs, Söderblom had a good showing against Iowa, saving 55 of 60 shots against, including quite a few high-danger, scramble plays. The team in front of him was better defensively than some of the season, but he was still huge when needed.
Unfortunately, much like the rest of his team, the series against Texas did not go as well for Söderblom. He finished with 11 goals against on 93 shots for a sub .900 save percentage. Several of the goals against were not on him – turnovers and miscues were rampant from the IceHogs – and he arguably only let in one "bad" goal, but it still wasn't his best performance to date.
Still, Söderblom wasn't without some big saves through the Texas series:
The IceHogs season is officially over, so the next time we check in with them will be this fall for the 2023-24 season. The makeup of the Rockford roster should be pretty different next season with a lot more prospects in the lineup, if most of the expected players make the jump from their previous leagues. Those potential incoming prospects could include: forwards Colton Dach, Gavin Hayes, Paul Ludwinski, Ryder Rolston, Antti Saarela; defensemen Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro, and Nolan Allan; and goaltender Drew Commesso.