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Depth player to Cup champion

by Mike Peck / Chicago Blackhawks

This week, will focus on the four long-time members of the AHL's Rockford IceHogs -- Corey Crawford, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell and Jack Skille -- who have made the full-time jump this season to the Chicago Blackhawks.

After skating in 48 AHL games with the Norfolk Admirals during his rookie season in 2006-07, Bryan Bickell received a late season recall to Chicago and finished out the regular season with the Blackhawks, notching two goals in his first three NHL three games.


This week, will feature each of the four former Rockford IceHogs.

Monday: Corey Crawford | Feature
Tuesday: Bryan Bickell
Thursday: Jake Dowell
Friday: Jack Skille

It was a promising start for Bickell whose big body (6-4, 218-pounds) and booming shot helped make him Chicago’s second round draft pick (#41 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Bickell, however, would only play 18 games in Chicago over the next three seasons before permanently sticking with the big club. Bickell was recalled from Rockford on April 7, 2010, and hasn’t returned.

Bickell progressed during his second campaign in the AHL when he nearly doubled his goal-output (10 to 19) and increased his overall point production from 25 to 39 points during his first season in Rockford.

But an injury-plagued third season limited Bickell to just 42 games in Rockford in 2008-09 and saw his point total dip to just 14 points.  Not the most ideal season for a player whose entry-level contract was set to expire.

“Coming off my injuries, I knew that it was my contract year and the last handful of games, even in the playoffs, I needed to prove to the organization that I wanted to stay and, one day, make this team in Chicago,” said Bickell. “You need to look past the injuries, and you never know in this game when the injuries are going to come.”

On New Year’s Eve 2008, Bickell broke his thumb in a fight with the Quad City Flames’ J.D. Watt. It caused the Orono, Ontario, native to miss the next 29 contests. After playing in 10 games following his thumb injury, Bickell suffered another setback with an eye injury that forced him out of five more tilts.

Winger Bryan Bickell was recalled from Rockford in April 2010 and hasn't looked back.

In a system stocked with prospects, Bickell was in danger of falling off of the Blackhawks depth chart. Now the winger occasionally finds himself playing on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Despite the injuries and reduction in points, the Hawks re-upped with Bickell for another campaign in 2009-10, and the move has worked out well for both parties. The winger put up 31 points with the IceHogs in 64 games last year, but more importantly he re-established himself in the organization.

“Only playing half the season two years ago and then being up and down last year was tough,” said Bickell. “To be here full-time now, I feel great, and I’m glad those injuries are in the past. I proved to them last year that I can play here, and now I’m here and hopefully I can stay.”

Bickell played in 16 games with Chicago in the 2009-10 regular season and four more in the club’s march to the Stanley Cup -- a pretty drastic turnaround for a player that just one season earlier could have been buried in the system and not re-signed. To reward Bickell, Chicago signed him to a three-year contract in July.

“The waiting game and being more consistent were the toughest parts,” replied Bickell. “I knew I could play here, but the coaches and the management told me I needed to work on my consistency. It’s been coming around, and as of late it’s the best it’s ever been for me.”

Nearly halfway through his first-full NHL season, Bickell ranks in the top 10 among all NHL rookies in points, goals and assists.
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