Any anxiety Rockford defenseman Shawn Lalonde had about joining the Rockford IceHogs was quickly erased after he notched his first professional goal in a 4-3 win over Peoria on March 26. The marker came in just the third game with his new team.
"I got the monkey off my back, " said the 20-year-old Lalonde. "Hopefully the flood gates open now and that can help carry us through the playoffs."
Lalonde joined the Blackhawks' American Hockey League affiliate just a few weeks ago, but his impact on the blue line has been substantial.
"I see a lot of talent, and the biggest skill in the game right now is the ability to skate and think at a high level," said Rockford head coach Bill Peters said. "That's what Shawn is able to do."
That skill set allowed Lalonde to accumulate 167 points in 248 games over the past four seasons with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. Lalonde, the OHL's best skater in 2009-10 according to the Eastern Conference Coaches Poll, was selected by the Blackhawks in the third round (68th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
"It's exciting to see him," said fellow Rockford defenseman Brian Connelly. "I think he is going to be a very good player for us. It's a really good addition to our team as we head toward the playoffs."
Blackhawks executives will tell you that they had Lalonde pegged as first round talent back in 2008, so of course they were happy to scoop him up in the third. Being that he is just 20 years-old, Rockford General Manager Mark Bernard, like everyone else, is going to wait patiently as he develops.
"This isn't going to be a time when we evaluate Shawn too much," Bernard said. "It's going to be a time for him to come into the league and get adjusted. Hopefully this will help him next year."
The Ontario native is finding his way in the AHL, but the skill level is significantly different than what he has experienced the past four years.
"Guys are a lot more skilled, they know their positions well, they know where to be," Lalonde said. "They are bigger and stronger, so you just have to adjust."
The smooth-skating youngster refers to himself as an "offensive defensemen," and coach Bill Peters agrees with that assessment.
"He's great as far as getting the puck up the ice," Peters said. "He's great on the power play and has a heavy shot."
Lalonde said that he loves quarterbacking the power play and making things happen from the blue line, but he knows he's got a long way to go to reach his ultimate goal.
"To get to the next level I need to improve on my defensive game and play better in my own end," Lalonde said.