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Only two home games remain as Iowa take on Rockford tonight

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The Wild (31-26-16, 78 pts) were officially eliminated over the weekend while the IceHogs (39-26-8, 86 pts) can clinch a playoff berth with a win or an overtime loss

Justin Kloos (25) sizes up Rockford’s William Pelletier (16) back in November
Ted Sandeen/Iowa Wild

DES MOINES, Iowa - A lot of early season promise and some high level of hockey through the bulk of the season all resulted in naught as the Iowa Wild will officially miss the postseason in their fifth year as Minnesota’s top development program.

It’s not all bad. If you’re a fan of Iowa, then seeing names like Carson Soucy and Nick Seeler on projected pairings against Winnipeg as Minnesota starts their playoff journey tomorrow night. We’ve also seen the NHL debut of Justin Kloos and a handful of guys skate at the X in dire moments.

The focus now is on at least finishing the season strong. With four games remaining and 78 points in their pocket, two more wins would mean tying the franchise record for points in a single season, a mark set last season as the playoffs also slipped from the team’s grasp despite a battle the ultimately came up short.

The IceHogs (Chicago) on the other hand, will clinch the final playoff spot in the Central Division with anything but a regulation loss. The Wild have the opportunity to play spoiler to a rival organization’s squad, as these two sides have traded blows all season long.

Top Performers

Rockford - Points

  1. Matthew Highmore (LW/C) - 42 pts (23G/19A)
  2. Anthony Louis (LW) - 41 pts (12G/29A)
  3. Tyler Sikura (C) - 38 pts (22G/16A)
  4. Chris DiDomenico (C) - 36 pts (13G/23A)
  5. Adam Clendening (RHD) - 34 pts (5G/29A)

The Blackhawks may have missed the postseason for the first time in nearly a decade, but there are some things to look forward too if you follow the feather. There will be some cap space to work with this summer (Stan’s bread and butter), and in looking towards Rockford, their top three leading scorers are all rookies about to get some playoff experience.

Highmore has been an interesting storyline this season, much in the way a lot of Iowa players. Undrafted out of the Q, he established himself as a top-six forward and has performed well when moving from center to the wing. The one road game I was able to travel to, he put up a hatty on Svedberg, and he even garnered enough attention to get some NHL minutes this year.

Louis is a Chicagoland kid and played his college puck with Louie Belpedio at Miami and has had a solid showing this season as well at age 23. He has four points in his last seven games - all assists.

Iowa - Points

  1. Sam Anas (RW) - 60 pts (26G/34A)
  2. Cal O’Reilly (C) - 60 pts (14G/46A)
  3. Justin Kloos (C) - 47 pts (19G/28A)
  4. Kyle Rau (LW) - 45 pts (20G/25A)
  5. Pat Cannone (C) - 37 pts (16G/21A)

#FreeSammy

If a 60 point season isn’t worth picking up an RFA option for Anas this summer, then I don’t want to care about hockey anymore. Yes, it’s the AHL, yes, he might be a little undersized, but the word around the offices is he’s made tremendous strides in playing away from the puck. It’s no accident that he’s now holding records in Iowa and has done so in several roles and different line combinations - though none more consistent than playing with Kloos and Gerry Mayhew.

Kloos is on the cusp of having a 50 point season as a “rookie,” and if the power play continues to show a little bit a promise, he’ll get there. He’s played well as a center this season, but one cannot discount that he could be Iowa’s third 20-goal scorer by the end of the year.

Brennan Menell is not on the list, but his 25 points is the best for a rookie defenseman in Iowa since moving to Des Moines in 2013. At 20 years old and seemingly plucked out of thin air despite solid numbers in the ‘Dub, this season has been a valuable learning opportunity for both the player and the development staff. Still giving a lot of credit to Minnesota’s scouting staff.

Rockford - Goalies

  1. Collin Delia (16-6-4) - 2.62 GAA/.905 SV%
  2. Jeff Glass (15-8-2) - 2.73 GAA/.907 SV%

Delia has been a surprising development in Rockford in a season that the status of Chicago’s netminding cache had come under scrutiny following the loss of Corey Crawford. His play in the A earned him two appearances with the Hawks, but to some abysmal numbers in the Show. At least in Rockford, he’s had the offense on his side to help him get near 20 wins despite not being in the top 20 in major categories for goaltenders in the A.

Same could be said for Glass, but the difference in age is the defining factory thus far in judging the ceiling for Delia as a viable option for development.

Iowa - Goalies

  1. Niklas Svedberg (18-7-7) - 2.84 GAA/.906 SV%
  2. Steve Michalek (12-7-6) - 3.13 GAA/.906 SV%

It’s been a real up and down season for both of Iowa’s netminders and there really hasn’t been too much talk about Ádám Vay getting meaningful reps in Iowa. This could be mostly due to the fact that Sveddy and Michalek are in contract seasons - the former looking at the calendar turning to UFA status come July.

Michalek sat out the trip to Milwaukee and C.J. Motte returned on a loan status, but I wouldn’t read too much into that.

Game Plan

As the season has progressed, it just becomes simpler to make these notes. Even more so since the playoffs are out of the picture. So:

Play the best hockey you can and enjoy the moment.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 CST at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.