Upon completion of the 2020-2021 AHL season, the Rockford IceHogs handed out their annual team awards to their roster.
Despite finishing the season 12-19-1-0, the Chicago Blackhawks' affiliate was comprised of numerous talented players who are just starting their hockey careers. These awards highlighted their on-ice performance during one of the most unconventional campaigns in AHL history.
Most Improved Player & Leading Scorer: Dylan McLaughlin
McLaughlin, a 25-year-old forward, led the team with 22 points, netting eight goals through 28 games. He finished in a tie with fellow forward Chris Wilkie for the team lead in that category. A New York native, McLaughlin went on a stretch in the middle of the season where he compiled 16 points in 14 games to bolster his scoring totals. This award isn't the first time he's been recognized for his skill. While attending Canisius College in Buffalo, he was a Hobey Baker finalist in the 2017-2018 season when Adam Gaudette, who was acquired by the Blackhawks earlier this season, received the honor.
Heavy Hitter: Dmitri Osipov
The 6-foot-4, 229-pound defenseman led the IceHogs with 46 hits this season and had eight three-plus hit games in the 22 that he appeared in. The Russian blue liner also added a pair of goals and four assists to the mix. Osipov, 24, appeared in five games with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL and showed his grit with a five-hit game.
Unsung Hero: D.J. Busdeker
At 21, Busdeker finished third among the plethora of rookies on the IceHogs roster in points, scoring five goals and adding seven assists in 24 games. He began the season with the Indy Fuel, but quickly gained attention with Rockford out of training camp when he earned his first AHL assist in his first game and his first AHL goal in his second game. The Michigan native had a successful first year in the American League after spending his junior years in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit, where he was and is highly talked about as one of the franchise's more talented products.
Rookie of the Year: Isaak Phillips
Phillips, 19, was selected in the fifth round of last year's NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, and quickly made his presence known within the organization. The Ontario native tallied two goals and seven assists through 27 games during the season, and inked his first NHL contract on March 31st. Chicago signed him to a three-year entry-level deal that runs through 2023-24. The 195-pound defenseman earned his ice time, averaging 19:22 of ice time per game, by playing disciplined and confident hockey.
Most Valuable Player & Best Defenseman: Cody Franson
Not only did the veteran defenseman aid young blueliners like Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin, but he was also an emotional leader and was talked about as one of the most effective defensemen in the league. Franson, 33, finished second on the IceHogs in points with four goals and 13 assists. That total tied him for 13th in the AHL. The Canadian-born defender also led the IceHogs in power play points with nine, as well as time on ice, coming in at 23:07 per game. Franson's MVP nod comes after Brandon Hagel won it in 2019-20.
The IceHogs iced an abundance of young talent throughout the season and the above awards are just a taste of what was seen throughout the shortened season. While it remains unknown who makes a return to Rockford and who goes on another path, the Blackhawks have plenty of talent in the pipeline for the future.