Luke Johnson has gotten a few chances to talk to Rockford head coach Jeremy Colliton, and he likes what the new coach is selling.
“He seems like a knowledgeable guy about the game,” said Johnson, who played 73 games with the IceHogs last season. “He’s a younger guy and his career wasn’t too long ago. That’s always nice having a younger coach that can kind of relate to us a little bit more. I’m looking forward to getting going with him and working with him.”
They’ve gotten to work together some already at the Blackhawks’ development camp this week, where Colliton has started to see who may be making up the IceHogs’ roster in a few months. The 32-year-old Colliton was a player himself not too long ago, and that connection has meant a smaller gap between he and his future players.
“I guess it’s another way to relate to them, another way to try and get the message across that they need to hear to get better,” Colliton said. “I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve been in their position and so hopefully that allows me to get that message across… whether it’s part of their game or what they’re doing off ice or how they approach things. There are so many things that can help them become Blackhawks. Getting that message across in different ways is a benefit.”
Colliton was among the coaches working with a group of prospects on Wednesday afternoon. Several of the players in that group either played some in Rockford last season (including Johnson and Matheson Iacopelli) or are headed there for the first time this fall. At the same time Colliton is learning himself, getting integrated in the Blackhawks’ way of doing things.
“Right from the first interview there’s been a discussion on how the Blackhawks want to play, and it fits well with how I see the game and how we played in Mora,” said Colliton of the team he coached in Sweden prior to returning to the states. “Whether it’s new guys as first-year pros or guys who have been there before, we have to continue to play at a high pace, have the puck as much as possible and play that up-tempo style that’s given the organization so much success.”
The fact that Colliton isn’t far removed from the game himself has already helped him connect with his soon-to-be IceHogs players. The other connection is the desire to win, which is there regardless of age gap.
“I’ve always paid attention to what I thought was important to win. As a competitor, nothing better than winning. As a player it was a big priority for me and when you become a coach it’s the same thing. You do whatever you can to help the team win and help the players learn what it takes to be successful individually,” Colliton said. “If you start there, they’re receptive to your message.”