Second-year defenseman Isaak Phillips is ready to go for the Rockford IceHogs.

Rockford’s postseason begins Wednesday night when they host the Texas Stars in the teams’ best-of-three first-round series. Phillips, a Chicago Blackhawks fifth-round pick in the 2020 National Hockey League Draft, continued his quick rise this season with Rockford as a 20-year-old.

“I think the playoffs at the pro level is something that a lot of our team hasn’t experienced yet,” Phillips said Monday. “I think it’s going to be great for all of us. It’s kind of eye-opening to see how hard it is, and how hard it will [be] to make the NHL and play at this competitive [level]. In the last half, almost all these games have been like playoff-style games.

“It’s going to be great for our group.”

Phillips appeared in 64 games this season, second only to Nicolas Beaudin among the Rockford defense corps, and generated 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists). He also appeared in four NHL games with Chicago and has emerged as a key part of the organization’s future.

“It’s been so easy the way the coaching staff is here, the environment is here, just to ask questions and to really get something out of every day,” Phillips said of his opportunity to develop with Rockford and to play for interim head coach Anders Sorensen.

“The whole time I’ve been here it’s been about developing. Obviously this is a development league, and if you’re playing good, strong minutes down here, they put trust in me, which is good. We have a really young group here, so I think everybody’s trying to make the NHL and they’re showing up every day ready to work.”

The Atlantic Division champion Charlotte Checkers are still awaiting their division semifinal opponent.

However, they will go into postseason play with a bolstered blue line, thanks to the Seattle Kraken. Defenseman Dennis Cholowski has rejoined the Checkers following the completion of Seattle’s season. Cholowski, 24, appeared in 31 games with the Checkers this season after Seattle claimed him off waivers on Feb. 9. A 2016 first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings, Cholowski brings six games of Calder Cup Playoff experience with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Seattle has also sent 2021 second-round pick Ryker Evans to the Checkers following the completion of his season with Regina of the Western Hockey League. The 20-year-old Evans was selected as a WHL East Division Second All-Star Team member after churning out 61 points (14 goals, 47 assists) in 63 games, tying him for sixth among WHL blueliners.

Charlotte is in a dual affiliation with Seattle and the Florida Panthers this season. Seattle had already returned goaltender Joey Daccord and defenseman Cale Fleury to Charlotte while Florida has provided forwards Aleksi Heponiemi and Cole Schwindt along with defenseman Matt Kiersted.

More help has arrived for the Colorado Eagles just in time for the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Eagles, who open their best-of-three first-round series with the Henderson Silver Knights at home Wednesday, have received 19-year-old forward Oskar Olausson from the Colorado Avalanche. Olausson went to the Avalanche as the 28th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and spent this season in the Ontario Hockey League, posting 49 points (26 goals, 23 assists) in 55 games between Oshawa and Barrie.

Following the NHL club’s regular-season finale, goaltender Justus Annunen and defenseman Jacob MacDonald were sent to the Eagles as well.

Los Angeles Kings top prospect Alex Turcotte crossed a major item off his to-do list before the start of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The 21-year-old forward returned to action for the Ontario Reign’s regular-season finale against the Henderson Silver Knights on Saturday night. Turcotte, taken fifth overall by the Kings in the 2019 NHL Draft, had been out of action injured since Feb. 12. Limited to 27 games with the Reign this season, Turcotte finished with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) as a second-year pro. He also played his first eight NHL games this season with the Kings.

“I actually felt pretty good,” Turcotte told the Ontario website after Saturday’s game. “I was really excited to play, and [it had] been almost three months since my last game. I thought I felt pretty good and made some good plays. I’m going to use it moving forward, and I think it’s going to help me, confidence-wise.”

Adding Turcotte for a first-round best-of-three series against the San Diego Gulls is a major addition for the AHL’s top offense in the regular season. Ontario churned out a league-best 3.81 goals per game and owned a top-ranked power play (72-for-262) that operated at 27.5 percent, best in AHL history.

Game 1 goes Wednesday night when the Reign welcome San Diego to Toyota Arena.

Patrick Williams

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