The Rockford IceHogs won their first AHL playoff game Wednesday night, beating the Texas Stars 2-1 at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. Two notable prospects who were healthy scratches from Game One spoke to the media Thursday morning following Rockford’s victory.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Nolan Allan and Colton Dach – the Blackhawks’ first and second-round picks in last year’s draft – were on the podium. While they’re not likely to crack the lineup in Rockford in this series, the two are soaking up the experience of being around a pro team this week.
Colton Dach, the younger brother of Kirby, was selected 62nd overall in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. In October, Dach agreed to terms with the Blackhawks on a three-year entry-level contract. He spoke about the different atmosphere in Rockford versus his experience in the WHL this season.
“It’s a pro mentality up here,” Dach said. “You come to the rink, and you’re here for a few hours, and you’ve got to get your work done. Everyone is on top of their game. Whether we’re out there for 30 minutes practicing, it’s the hardest 30 minutes of the day. You go out there and do your best and then get yourself in the gym and get prepared.”
Dach spent the season with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, scoring 79 points (29 goals, 50 assists). His 79 points ranked 15th in the WHL this season and led the Rockets in points; he finished tied for the Rockets’ team lead in goals.
Dach called his time in the WHL this season a confidence builder, one that he hopes can translate during his time with Rockford and eventually in the Blackhawks developmental camp this summer.
“I think that was the point of going to juniors, just trying to get that confidence level up and play those games… kind of just play my game and come up here and just try to do my best and hopefully showcase myself well.”
Defenseman Nolan Allan was Chicago’s first-round draft pick last year (No. 32 overall). He led the Prince Alberta Raiders’ defensemen with 34 assists this season and was second among Raiders’ defensemen with 41 points. Allan also helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championships while recording a goal and an assist in seven games during the tournament.
In September, the 19-year-old blueliner agreed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. Allan was asked about his success in the WHL this season. The young blueliner attributed the uptick in scoring chances to getting the opportunity to play on the power play with Prince Alberta this season.
“I think it’s a little bit more opportunity. I was playing on the power play this year, so that obviously helped. Just getting a little more confidence in myself and my offensive abilities.”
Even though Dach and Allan didn’t play last night and might not play at all, the duo is happy to be in Rockford and aren’t worried about getting playing time this time around.
“Just [want to] soak as much in as I can. I might not get in the lineup, but that doesn’t matter to me,” Nolan Allan said. “Other guys have played here the whole year, so they deserve to play. For me, it’s just soaking everything in and using this as experience for my summer and going forward.”
Even without playing time, Dach and Nolan have a chance to work out and practice with the Rockford staff and get to pick the brains of teammates who have spent time in the NHL. Dach said, “It’s nice coming here; there are lots of guys who have played a few games in the NHL, so you get to talk to them and see how it is up there and learn from them. It’s going to be good for Nolan and me.”
Derek King said many times this season that getting to be around the IceHogs during their AHL playoff runs is a valuable experience for young prospects who need a taste of competitive pro hockey, and Allan and Dach fit the bill perfectly.
Ice Hogs fans will become familiar with the pair of Blackhawks prospects in the immediate future, with both of the 19-year-olds eligible to join Rockford full-time next season. Blackhawks fans, however, will have to follow along with the Rockford bunch for the time being. Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson made it clear this week that there’s no race to the NHL for their prospects, so it’ll be a slow roll for the likes of Allan and Dach for now.