On Monday March 8th, the Rockford IceHogs announced the reassignment of backstop Tom Aubrun to the Indy Fuel. On the other hand, defensemen Cliff Watson signed a professional tryout agreement in the American Hockey League.
Starting with Aubrun, the goalie was assigned to the Fuel before the start of the 2020-21 season. After appearing in three games with the hockey club, the native of France was recalled by Rockford. In those three games, he recorded a GAA of 3.92 with a .870 save percentage.
The call up made a lot of sense for the Icehogs, seeing as though it seemed they could be in the midst of some major goalie issues after Corey Crawford retired. This would have opened a spot for a goalie to rise from the American Hockey League stage. Former Fuel goalie Kevin Lankinen has been playing with Chicago and seems to have earned his spot there.
Additionally, Collin Deila was assigned to the Blackhawks taxi squad, so he wasn’t playing with the IceHogs either. During his tenure in Rockford, Aubrun was started in only one game. He recorded a GAA of 3.79 and a .895 save percentage.
Now that the IceHogs have seemingly figured out their goalie situation, I think it makes perfect sense to reassign the six-foot goaltender. During his stint with Rockford, Billy Christopoulos signed a PTO with the Henderson Silver Knights, which opened another goalie spot in Indy.
This allows Aubrun to get more playing time, which he was not getting while playing with the IceHogs. Additionally, with the reassignment of Aubrun, the Indy Fuel have waived backstop Sean Bonar.
While Aubrun was reassigned to the Fuel, Cliff Watson, who was the captain in Indy, is getting his shot in the American Hockey League. He was signed on Monday to a professional tryout agreement. Watson is in his second season with the Fuel and was named as team captain in early February.
A native of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he was originally chosen by San Jose Sharks in the draft’s sixth round back in 2012. In 21 games this season, Watson has tallied 11 assists, while also adding on 18 penalty minutes. At the AHL level this season, Watson has recorded two goals along with five assists, while adding 31 penalty minutes.
The Rockford IceHogs are off to a rough start this season, as they’re currently 3-7-1 and sitting at the bottom of the Central Division. The introduction of the NHL’s taxi squad really hurt the Rockford IceHogs this year. It seemed like the hockey club was forced to sign a lot of players they wouldn’t go after otherwise. This of course being the case since many gifts are riding around on the taxi squad. This also left Rockford with a really young team.
Watson will bring a bigger body to the team, and while he doesn’t have a lot of AHL experience, he still has quite a bit from his ECHL service time. He also has brings to Rockford his leadership, as he is currently the captain of the Fuel. Watson also served as captain in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers.
While he wore the “C” in 2012-13, he was also the captain at college with Michigan Tech in the NCAA. He only led the team for two seasons, in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Standing at six-foot-two and weighing in at 190 pounds, the defensemen will bring a big body to the Icehogs.
At 27-years-old, he will also bring with him experience to Rockford. Watson appears a two-way defensemen, as he’s able to help set up a lot of goals, while managing to rack up a lot of assists. Overall, I think this move can be beneficial for both teams respectively. I think Aubrun will benefit from time in Indy, where there is potential to also rack up more playing time. I also think that Cliff Watson can help to balance out a youthful IceHogs team.