ECHL teams have several different sources of players. The majority of most teams’ rosters comes from free-agent signings on ECHL contracts (that’s usually everyone, but the Missouri Mavericks were a notable exception this past year, playing most of the season with at least half its roster on NHL/AHL contract). But the remainder comes from the system – the NHL and AHL affiliates.
The Indy Fuel generally have received up to four players at a given time from the affiliate – and last year, skated with goaltender Mac Carruth, forward Daniel Ciampini and defensemen Sam Jardine and Nick Mattson on the roster. In addition, forward Chris DeSousa and defenseman Dillon Fournier spent some time on the Fuel’s roster. Of that group of six players, four were drafted by the Blackhawks – Carruth, Jardine, Mattson and Fournier. DeSousa turned pro on an ECHL deal with the Fuel in 2014-15, then parlayed that into an AHL contract, and spent nearly all of 2015-16 in Rockford. Ciampini was an undrafted free-agent signing by Rockford after finishing his college career at Union. He split his rookie season between Rockford and Indy.
With the Blackhawks and the other 29 NHL teams re-stocking their prospect pools this past weekend, it’s always a good time to look at the players who are making up the system.
A quick reminder on rights. Nearly all of the players taken in the NHL Draft are 18-year-olds, but very few turn pro for at least two years. Unless they make an NHL roster, players drafted out of the Canadian major junior ranks are required to play in junior through their 20-year-old season – or two years after their draft year. NHL teams retain the rights of players drafted from European leagues for four years, and they retain the rights of NCAA players until the summer after their senior year – which can be up to six years if they play in the USHL, NAHL or a Canadian Junior A league through their Age 20 season, and then play four years in college.
This year, the Blackhawks and IceHogs have signed a number of free agents, and the Hawks have inked a few draft picks, as well. In the last two seasons, the Blackhawks and IceHogs have typically assigned one forward, two defensemen and a goaltender to the Fuel from the system.
This year’s draft class is not included, as those players are 2-to-4 years away from joining the system.
New players in the system
Jake Hildebrand, G, Michigan State, NCAA (5-11, 182, 23 years old)
- Signed AHL contract this offseason with Rockford. Undrafted free agent.
- Three-time team MVP at Michigan State, where he posted a 2.58 career GAA and .921 save percentage.
- Signed ECHL contract with Allen after his college season. Was 5-1-0 with 2.31 GAA, 9.25 saver percentage in six regular-season games. In playoffs, was 3-2 with a 3.49 GAA in eight games, getting several starts due to injury to starter Riley Gill. He was a part of a Kelly Cup championship.
- Keep an eye on Hildebrand as a possible Fuel assignee, as there are already four signed goaltenders in the system – Corey Crawford, Scott Darling, Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson all under NHL contract.
Evan Mosey, D, Nottingham Panthers, EIHL (5-11, 185, 27 years old)
- Played four years at Minnesota State-Mankato from 2009-13, tallying 30 points.
- Has played three seasons in Europe, the last two in Britain’s Nottingham, where he had 17 goals and 48 points in 63 games.
- Undrafted free agent who signed AHL contract with Rockford.
Michal Kempny, D, Avangard Omsk, KHL (6-0, 194, 25 years old)
- Qualifies as a veteran by ECHL standards, will likely be a veteran for Rockford or a depth player in Chicago. Had 21 points in 59 games in the KHL last season, was played eight pro seasons.
- Undrafted free agent who signed one-year NHL contract with Chicago.
Gustav Forsling, D, Linkopings HC, Sweden (5-11, 172, 19 years old)
- 5th-round pick of Vancouver, 2014 (acquired via trade)
- 6-15-21, +21 in 48 games for Linkopings this season. Top-scoring defenseman in World Junior Championship with eight points in seven games. With his youth, there’s a possibility we may see him here as he adjusts to the North American game.
- Signed three-year NHL deal with Chicago this offseason
Lars Johansson, G, Frolunda, SHL (6-1, 198, 28 years old)
- 56-27-0 with 11 shutouts in last three years, had 1.74 GAA last season, was Swedish Hockey League Goaltender of the Year last season.
- Has played eight professional seasons.
- Undrafted free agent who signed one-year NHL contract with Chicago. Expect either he or Hildebrand to be with the Fuel to start the season.
Martin Lundberg, F, Skelleftea AIK, SHL (6-0, 205, 26 years old)
- 13-8-21 line in 44 games this past season. Has played 402 career games in nine seasons in SHL. Qualifies as a veteran by ECHL standards. Likely a depth player in Rockford.
- Undrafted free agent who signed one-year NHL contract with Chicago
Luke Johnson, C, North Dakota, NCAA (6-0, 192, 21 years old)
- Blackhawks’ 5th-round pick in 2015
- Recently finished his junior season for NCAA champion North Dakota (11-10-21 in 43 games). As a first-year pro, he could be a depth player in Rockford or a forward tie the Fuel.
- Signed a three-year NHL contract with Chicago this spring.
Nick Schmaltz, F, North Dakota, NCAA (6-0, 171, 20 years old)
- 1st-round pick, 2014
- 11-35-46 in 37 games this season as a sophomore for NCAA champion North Dakota. Had +44 rating
- Signed a three-year NHL deal with Chicago this spring. Expected to play immediately in NHL.
Eligible to turn pro by 2017
Radovan Bondra, RW, Vancouver Giants, WHL (6-6, 220, 19 years old)
- 5th-round pick, 2015
- 15-15-30 in 58 games with Vancouver, -32
- Has one year of major junior hockey remaining. Could turn pro at end of WHL playoffs.
Chris Calnan, RW, Boston College, NCAA (6-2, 209)
- 3rd-round pick, 2012 NHL Draft
- Recently finished his junior season. posted 9 points in regular season. Could turn pro at end of NCAA season.
John Hayden, C, Yale, NCAA (6-3, 210, 21 years old)
- 3rd-round pick, 2013
- Recently finished his junior season. 16-7-23, +4, 24 PIM in 31 games. Could turn pro at end of NCAA season.
Graham Knott, LW, Niagara IceDogs, OHL (6-4, 190, 19 years old)
- 2nd-round pick, 2015
- Recently finished his 3rd junior season with Niagara (12-30-42, 68 GP).
- Has one year of major junior hockey remaining. Could turn pro at end of OHL playoffs.
Anthony Louis, C, Miami University, NCAA (5-7, 150, 21 years old)
- 6th-round pick, 2013
- Recently finished his junior season at Miami (11-15-26, -5 in 36 games). Has 32 career goals in three seasons. Could turn pro at end of NCAA season.
Tyler Motte, C, Michigan, NCAA (5-9, 193, 21 years old)
- 4th-round pick, 2013
- Finishing junior season at Michigan (31-23-54 in 36 games, +31)
- If he turns pro, likely will be headed to Rockford with those numbers. Could turn pro at end of NCAA season.
Roy Radke, RW, Barrie Colts, OHL (6-3, 203, 19 years old)
- 6th-round pick, 2015
- 19-20-39, +3 in 66 games with Barrie in 2nd year as a junior. Has one more year of major junior remaining.
Matt Tomkins, G, Ohio State, NCAA (6-3, 193, 21 years old)
- 7th-round pick, 2012
- 5-7-1, 3.87 GAA, .888 save percentage in 14 games this past season, his junior year. 16-21-4 overall at OSU. Could turn pro at end of season.
Carl Dahlstrom, D, Linkopings HC, Sweden (6-4, 223, 21 years old)
- 2nd-round pick, 2013
- 1-7-8 in 50 games this season. Played 2 games for Rockford last year, 4 games for IceHogs this year at conclusion of European season.
Robin Press, D, Djugardens, Sweden (6-2, 187, 21 years old)
- 7th-round pick, 2013
- 1-2-3, -6 in 51 games this season. Played briefly for Rockford in 2014-15.
Eligible to turn pro by 2018
Dylan Sikura, F, Northeastern, NCAA (5-11, 160, 20 years old)
- 6th-round pick, 2014
- Sophomore at Northeastern. 10-18-28, -3 in 38 games this season.
Luc Snuggerud, D, Nebraska-Omaha, NCAA (6-0, 187, 20 years old)
- 5th-round pick, 2014
- 4-14-18 in 35 games as a sophomore this past season, 6-28-34 in 74 career games.
Ivan Nalimov, G, Vladivostok Admirals, KHL (6-4, 213, 22 years old)
- 6th-round pick, 2014
- 20-13-3, 2.60, .908 this season in 39 games for Vlaidivostok
Andreas Soderberg, D, Vita Hasten, Sweden (6-4, 200, 19 years old)
- 5th-round pick, 2014
- 1 assist, -4 in 45 games this season.
- Signed with IK Pantern in Sweden for next season
Eligible to turn pro by 2019
Liam Coughlin, F, Vermont, NCAA (6-3, 201)
- 5th-round pick of Edmonton, 2014 NHL Draft (Acquired via trade)
- Recently finished freshman season at Vermont (3-9-12, +6, 43 PIM in 35 games)
Matt Iacopelli, F, Western Michigan, NCAA (6-2, 192, 21 years old)
- 3rd-round pick, 2014
- Recently finished freshman season at WMU (1-6-7, 6 PIM, -19 in 27 games)
Frederik Olofsson, F, Nebraska-Omaha, NCAA (6-2, 204, 19 years old)
- 4th-round pick, 2014
- Recently finished freshman season at Nebraska-Omaha (8-9-17 in 34 games, =7)
Jack Ramsey, F, Minnesota, NCAA (6-3, 191, 20 years old)
- 7th-round pick, 2014
- 0-5-5 in 31 games for Minnesota this season as a freshman. Had 38 points in BCHL in 2014-15.
Beau Starrett, F, Cornell, NCAA (6-5, 205, 20 years old)
- 3rd-round pick, 2014
- 1 goal in 15 games this past season, his freshman year at Cornell
Dennis Gilbert, D, Notre Dame, NCAA (6-3, 201, 19 years old)
- 3rd-round pick, 2015
- 2-8-10, +6 as freshman at Notre Dame this past season
John Dahlstrom, RW, Vita Hasten HC, Sweden (6-0, 189, 19 years old)
- 7th-round pick, 2015 NHL Draft
- Had 1 assist in 15 games in Sweden this season.
Joni Tuulola, D, HPK Hameenlinna, Finland (6-3, 180, 20 years old)
- 6th-round pick, 2015
- 2-12-14 in 53 games this season, -6
Eligible to turn pro 2020 or later
Jake Massie, D, Omaha Lancers, USHL (6-0, 172, 19 years old)
- 6th-round pick of Carolina, 2015 (acquired via trade)
- 3-5-8, -15 in 37 games with Omaha this season
- Committed to play college hockey at Vermont
Ryan Shea, D, Youngstown Phatoms, USHL (6-1, 175, 19 years old)
- 4th-round pick, 2015
- 2-3-5 in 23 USHL games this season, -4
- Committed to play college hockey at Northeastern