The Chicago Blackhawks, like the rest of the NHL, will have loads of talented youth playing in the American Hockey League this fall. Second-year center Marcus Kruger will be one such player looking to polish his game.
The young Swede was assigned to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs before the owners broke out the padlocks last weekend. Despite speculation that Kruger would elect to play in Europe, it appears that he is going to be reporting to Rockford when its training camp opens September 30.
According to ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers, Kruger was among a group of players taking part in drills in Chicago with 'Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. Rogers remarked that Kruger has filled out a bit and was skating well. Taking Kruger at his word, he is remaining in North America while he waits for the NHL season to start:
I’m going to be there (Rockford) earlier than that (September 30). I’m going to try and do my best there and help the team and try to get better. Do the best I (can) considering the situation.
Some may be surprised that Kruger didn't just stay home and play in the Swedish Elite League. However, the SEL, unlike other European leagues like the KHL, does not allow for contracts shorter than one year. If Kruger played at home, he'd be there for the entire season.
Faced with a job elsewhere in Europe or the AHL, Kruger has apparently made the decision to work in the smaller dimensions of the North American ice surface. He is better off on this side of the Atlantic.
Kruger needs to develop his effectiveness in the corners, and he'll get that chance at the BMO Center as well as the other rinks of the AHL. What has always been a physical league will be deeper and filled with stronger players.
Adding to that pool will be Kruger. He is a player who needs to find a bit more offense to his game if he is to be a serious option at second-line center for the 'Hawks. Rockford is a good place for Kruger to flesh out that part of his game.
Kruger started last season with the IceHogs but never skated. After Chicago's first game in Dallas, Kruger traded places with Brandon Pirri, who led Rockford in points last season. Could Kruger have similar success in his time in the AHL?
Hopefully the lockout will end at some point and Kruger will not spend his entire season in Rockford. That doesn't mean he can't develop in the offensive zone and get a little stronger at the same time.