Adam Clendening would love to follow the path of his former Rockford IceHogs defensive partners.
The 21-year-old paired with Nick Leddy in the fall and winter of 2012, when the NHL was locked out. He later paired with Ryan Stanton, who was put on waivers and picked up by the Vancouver Canucks, with whom he became a starter.
“Seems like everybody I play with moves on,” said Clendening with a laugh. Now Clendening wants to be the next to take that next step.
Clendening would love to be with the Chicago Blackhawks full time; for now, however, he’s here as part of the team’s prospect camp this week. Clendening had a great season with the IceHogs, recording 12 goals and 44 assists in 70 games. The season earned Clendening first-team, all-star recognition in the AHL. With his second-team all-star selection in 2012-13, Clendening became the first AHL defenseman to make all-star teams in his first two seasons since Dan Boyle (1999 and 2000).
As for taking that next step, Clendening believes he’s ready for it.
“I’ve played two years in the American League but that time there really helped me, I think,” he said. “I worked on my defensive side of the puck, got to play against the other team’s best players for two years and some of those guys are now playing in the NHL.”
And that past work with current NHL defensemen Leddy and Stanton, Clendening added, has helped him develop his all-around game.
“I’ve kind of taken what I learned there and applied it to my game to play against the other team’s top line, which you only learn from or else you won’t play or you get scored on,” he said. “It’s definitely come a long way.”
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Now, will there be an opportunity for Clendening with the Blackhawks this season? The Blackhawks have carried eight defensemen in each of the past two seasons; they like having depth at that spot. In that respect, Clendening has a chance. There’s one other potential window, however: the Blackhawks are currently over the cap by $2-plus million and have to get under $69 million by season’s start. If the Blackhawks trade a defenseman, opportunity could knock for others, including Clendening.
The past two years have been a great learning experience for the defenseman. He’d love to see himself in a Blackhawks jersey this season. If he doesn’t, the work continues to be the next Hawks prospect ready to take the next step.
“I’m always hopeful, I guess, even if they weren’t over the cap or anything. (You’re) just trying to come in and take a job,” he said. “So it’s there, I guess, for the taking. If a spot opens up, it opens up. If not, just time to get better in the American League.”