The Chicago Blackhawks showed they believe in Cole Moberg’s potential as a pro hockey prospect two summers ago when they drafted him in the seventh round.
The NHL team’s interest in securing the services of the 20-year-old Prince George Cougars defenceman became a little more real this week when the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the ‘Hawks top farm team, offered him a one-year professional tryout contract.
Moberg signed with the IceHogs on Monday and immediately went into quarantine while he awaits a United States work visa. He had a COVID test on Wednesday and hopes to join the team in Rockford, Ill., sometime next week.
“It’s pure joy, honestly, it’s not quite an entry-level contract, that my goal is, but it’s a step in the right direction to get down there and at least be right in front of them and train with all their staff and prove myself,” said Moberg.
Moberg’s hockey career was put on hold by the pandemic and he hasn’t played a game since March, when the WHL season was put on pause and eventually canceled.
“Usually I get three or four months of summer training but it’s been 10 months since my last game,” he said.
“It’s been hard, it really tests your mental health, being away from the game for so long. But at least now, knowing there’s a start date, and I get to go down there and go play and I’m really looking forward to that.”
Moberg, a native of North Vancouver, has been a Cougar since August 2016. He led all Cougars defenceman in scoring last season with 13 goals and 37 points. In 187 WHL games over three seasons he collected 29 goals and 60 assists for 89 points and had 101 penalty minutes.
“This is a great opportunity for Cole to continue to his development at the professional level,” said Mark Lamb, the Cougars’ general manager and head coach. “His signing is a reflection of the hard work and commitment he has put into getting himself ready for the next step.”
The IceHogs begin their training camp on Saturday.
Moberg will have to go into another quarantine period once he gets to Illinois and he figures he will only miss a few days with his new teammates. He’s been in Prince George the past three months and has been skating with some of the Cougars, who have rented some ice times on city rinks on their own while they await the start of the 24-game WHL season.
Moberg was called to the Spruce Kings in December and played a couple intrasquad games but did not get to skate with the team in the BCHL preseason when their scheduled game in Merritt in early December was canceled by a provincial health order that banned travel.
Rockford is a two-hour drive west of Chicago and Moberg’s IceHogs will play in the same division as the Iowa Wild, the team former Cougar captain Josh Maser signed with over the summer. The IceHogs, who open their 30-game schedule at home for a doubleheader against Cleveland on Feb. 5, travel to Des Moines, Iowa for their first road game on Feb. 13.
Former Cougar winger Brad Morrison, who was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to Chicago, will start the season playing for the Ice Hogs. Moberg also knows a few Rockford players he met at the ‘Hawks rookie camp in August-September 2019.
Moberg said he appreciates everything the Cougars have done to help him advance his hockey career and offered his thanks to the fans who have stuck with the team throughout his career since he arrived in Prince George 3 ½ years ago as a 16 year old.
“I was talking to Mark (Lamb) about it and he was saying the (Cougars) ownership group is big on pushing to have a season even without fans and that just shows how much they care about us and want us to be able to play,” said Moberg.