While the Blackhawks of today are busy battling St. Louis in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks of tomorrow are busy with postseason preparations of their own. Two 2015 draft picks are set for a head-to-head battle in the conference finals of the Ontario Hockey League Playoffs, while in Rockford, the IceHogs will begin their quest for the Calder Cup on Wednesday.
In the OHL, fifth-round draft pick Roy Radke helped the Barrie Colts win the Central Divison with a 43-22-0-3 record, earning the second-overall seed in the Eastern Conference. The Chicago native notched 39 points (19G, 20A) in 66 games during the regular season, but has been held without a point over the first 11 postseason tilts.
After getting past Mississauga in the first round and sweeping North Bay in the second round, the Colts will face the fourth-seeded Niagara IceDogs in the conference final, featuring second-round pick Graham Knott. The 19-year-old tallied 42 points (12G, 30A) in 68 regular-season tilts before adding a goal and two assists in nine playoff games thus far. The IceDogs defeated Ottawa in the first round and swept Kingston in the second round to book their trip to the conference final.
Barrie will host Games 1 and 2 on Thursday and Saturday before the series returns to Niagara.
In the American Hockey League, the IceHogs finished in third place in the Central Division after wrapping up their second consecutive 40-win season. Standout rookie Vincent Hinostroza led Rockford in scoring, posting 51 points (18G, 33A), ranking ninth among first-years in the league; Mark McNeill paced the team with a career-high 25 goals, sharing 13th overall in the AHL.
With late-season call-ups to Chicago creating openings on the roster, 2013 fourth-round pick Tyler Motte quickly made a home on Rockford’s top six, compiling five points (2G, 3A) in his first five professional games on the “College Line” alongside Hinostroza and Tanner Kero. On the blue line, Robin Norell and Carl Dahlstrom (also 2013 draft picks) joined the team after the conclusion of their seasons in the Swedish league. And after a strong final week where he allowed just two goals on 79 shots in three games, going 3-0-0, former 2010 seventh-round pick Mac Carruth was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week.
Rockford will face the second-seeded Lake Erie Monsters, Columbus’ AHL affiliate, which is fully stocked due to the Blue Jackets not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The IceHogs will host Games 1 and 2 on Wednesday and Thursday in the best-of-five first round, before the series shifts to Cleveland, Ohio, for the final three games.