By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – Seven players who skated with the Rockford IceHogs last season will report to the 2018 Chicago Blackhawks Development Camp next week.
Forwards Radovan Bondra, Alexandre Fortin, Mathias From, Kyle Maksimovich and Nathan Noel will join defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Joni Tuulola on the 41-man roster when camp opens July 16 at the MB Ice Arena, Chicago’s new practice facility.
Camp comprises daily on-ice sessions and a scrimmage Friday, July 20.
Bondra, 21, saw action with the IceHogs during the 2016-17 season but an upper-body injury sidelined the Trebisov, Slovakia native for the majority of last year. He did skate in 11 games for the Indy Fuel and scored once.
Bondra is a product of the Western Hockey League.
Fortin appeared in the 2017 Development Camp and is under contract through the 2019-20 season. He made his pro debut last October and was expected to be one of the Rockford blueliners to earn a call-up. An injury kept him in Rockford though, limiting his experience to 21 points and 92 shots on goal in 53 games.
“It (will) be the same as last year,” the 21-year-old, said. “I’ll try to play the best I can. I worked a lot this year to improve what I had to improve. I had some problems and got injured, but I just have to stay focused and work hard. I am more confident, and I know that it’s just another camp and another year, so I get to start all over again.”
Twenty-year-old From spent last season in both the top level of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and the Swedish second league, Allsvenskan. He signed a professional tryout contract with the IceHogs in April and was on the Black Aces squad for the Calder Cup Playoffs that saw Rockford reach the Western Conference Finals.
Noel split the 2017-18 campaign between Rockford and Indy. He turned in four goals and seven assists in 21 ECHL games and a goal in 17 outings for the IceHogs. His AHL tally was game winner on Feb. 13 against the Cleveland Monsters.
Tuulola, 22, signed with Chicago on March 23 and skated in two regular-season games and made four playoff appearances with Rockford. He played five seasons in the Finnish Elite League and in 2017-18, appeared in all but one of Vaasan Sport’s 59 games, scoring seven goals and 23 assists.
Maksimovich appeared in four games with Rockford this spring after spending four seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. The IceHogs signed the 20-year-old on March 18. He made his pro debut March 23 against the Milwaukee Admirals.
Gilbert is a 2015 Blackhawks draft pick and signed with the organization April 14 after completing his junior season at Notre Dame, where concluded the campaign with four goals and six assists. He skated in two IceHogs practices during their Calder Cup run.
Top draft pick Adam Boqvuist will also attend camp. The 17-year-old Swedish defenseman was taken eighth overall in June’s NHL Draft and just signed a Standard Players Agreement with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. The Blackhawks inked him to a three-year entry-level deal July 1.
General Manager Stan Bowman said the club is prepared to be heavily involved in preparing Boqvuist for the next level as soon as possible.
“Obviously, he’s got a ton of talent,” Bowman said. “We’re really excited about his skill set and what he brings to the table. He’s a dynamic offensive defenseman. We’re looking to play a role in his development over the next couple of years and the goal is to try to get him ready for the NHL as soon as possible.” R.