INDIANAPOLIS – The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks have established that they have plenty of players on their payroll this season and it is no different for their goaltending depth. With two NHL caliber goaltenders on the Blackhawks roster, it leaves three goaltenders in Rockford. That kind of goaltending depth could create a positive trickle-down effect for the Indy Fuel.
With Anton Forsberg being assigned to Rockford that leaves three goaltenders on the IceHogs roster, Forsberg, Collin Delia, and Kevin Lankinen. Delia has started four out of the IceHogs six games this season posting a .910 save percentage.
“There’s a lot of talent – and young talent – in net,” said Blackhawks Vice President of Hockey Operations/Team Affiliates Mark Bernard in an NHL.com feature. “It’s going to be a dogfight for them to secure positions.”
Chicago has set big sights for Delia in the future and could see him as a future back-up if not a starter. With three goaltenders in Rockford, many believed that they would send Lankinen to Indy on Monday afternoon.
Lankinen came to Rockford after spending last season in Finland. He’s spent the last three seasons in Helsinki playing for HIFK. The Helsinki native played 15 games for HIFK, posting a .954 save percentage. At the end of last season, he was loaned to Ketterä where he played in two games, only letting in two goals total. Signing with the Blackhawks heading into the 2018 season, Lankinen wasn’t likely to get much time with the parent team. So, the Blackhawks sent him down to Rockford to split time with goaltending prospect, Collin Delia. Since the start of the season, Lankinen has only played two games for Rockford posting a .825 save percentage and a 3.39 goals against average.
If Lankinen were sent down to Indy, there would be three goaltenders on the roster. Matt Tomkins, who is on a Rockford contract, Lankinen and Jason Pawloski. Only Pawloski is the goaltender who is on an ECHL contract. Tomkins has started every game for the Fuel this season, allowing 11 goals on 136 shots, good for a .926 save percentage, an ECHL Goaltender of the Week Nomination and helping the Fuel to their best start in franchise history.
Now here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Monday afternoon, the Laval Rocket, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, announced that they were assigning former Fuel goaltender Étienne Marcoux to his former team, Indy Fuel.
Le Rocket de Laval a assigné le gardien Étienne Marcoux au Fuel d’Indy de la ECHL. / Laval Rocket assigned goaltender Étienne Marcoux to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) October 22, 2018
Laval doesn’t currently have an ECHL affiliate, although they have assigned players to Maine, Norfolk, Fort Wayne and now Indy.
Overall the Rocket now have seven players in the ECHL, spread across four teams, as was expected. It’s ironic that when they had an official affiliation with Brampton there was no ECHL depth, but with no affiliation this season they seem to have an abundance of players to spare.
— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) October 23, 2018
Initially, it created a bit of a logjam in terms of goaltending depth in the Blackhawks organization, even though Marcoux is on a Laval contract. The next day, ECHL transactions page listed Marcoux’s rights being traded to Brampton, the former Montreal ECHL affiliate. The Fuel traded Marcoux’s rights to Brampton in exchange for future considerations.
So with Forsberg sent down to Rockford, the IceHogs currently have three NHL contracted goaltenders on their roster. Indy has Matt Tomkins, who is on a Rockford contract, and Jason Pawloski. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Kevin Lankinen sent down to Indy in the near future. It doesn’t make sense for three goaltenders to be sitting in Rockford when Lankinen can get consistent starts while splitting games with Tomkins.
This isn’t a bad problem to have if you’re the Indy Fuel. The more players on NHL contracts, the more players have to be sent down to Rockford, who in turn sends players down to play for the Fuel. Indy gets several players from Rockford every season and this season is no different. If they use those players and goaltenders to their advantage, they will have a solid core of skilled players on the roster and putting up points in the ECHL. The names will change and players will move up and down and that’s the nature of the league, but Indy certainly has the goaltending and roster to make a statement in the Central Division this season.