ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)–When the IceHogs return from their holiday break, they’ll refocus on moving up in the AHL’s Central Division. First-year forward Mike Hardman can help with that. He’ll also be focusing on getting back up with the Blackhawks.
Hardman was first assigned to the IceHogs by the Blackhawks ten days ago. It didn’t take him long to get his first IceHogs’ goal. It came last Saturday in Texas. Scoring isn’t his ticket though to a long professional career. It’s maximizing his 6’2 205-pound frame
“I think the biggest thing is just defensively up there, there’s so many players that can score and all that stuff, so I think playing a really good defensive role as a bottom six forward is what can make me a consistent NHL player up there, “said Hardman.
Hardman played two years at Boston College. He wasn’t drafted. So last March he signed an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks. He played in eight games with them. He scored one goal and dished out two assists.
Hardman opened this season with the Blackhawks. He appeared in 19 games. He had two assists. The Blackhawks felt he needed more work and a bigger role, so he was sent to the IceHogs.
“Coming down here I don’t think it’s a failure whatsoever. It’s my rookie year. My first full year pro. I knew coming in that this was a possibility.”
Hardman is only 22, but he seems more mature than that both in size and in his outlook. You get a sense he’ll be back in Chicago before too long.
“Everyone on this team wants to play in the NHL and have a long career,” said Hardman “So I know being down here it’s, you’ve got to work hard and prepare to become the best player you can possibly be.”
In Rockford Hardman will try to balance giving the IceHogs what they need from him, while also focusing on becoming the type of player he needs to be to stick in the NHL.
“That’s probably the most difficult part about pro hockey. I think down here I can be a top-six guy that can score and make plays and all that stuff, but up there I’m going to have to play physical and be a reliable forward, but I think I can blend that in.”