Blackhawks eager to see if Highmore can compete at NHL level
As fate would have it, Matthew Highmore didn't have to do much to let his mom know he had been called up to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
Because she was sitting right next to him.
"She was down for a visit," said the 22-year-old, who was on the way to the grocery store when Mark Bernard called with the big news. "So my first phone call was to my dad. We were all on speakerphone.
"It was a special moment for sure."
It's been a special season for Highmore, too, and that's the biggest reason the Hawks are giving him a look with 19 games remaining.
Highmore, whom the Hawks signed last March after an impressive season in the Quebec Junior League, set a Rockford rookie record with 21 goals in 56 games.
He stood out during training camp and is a responsible two-way forward who, despite his 5-foot-10, 187-pound frame, isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas. IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton said that while some of Highmore's goals came on highlight-reel plays, many more came because of his ability to find loose pucks and rebounds around the net.
"His compete level's excellent," Colliton said. "For a first-year pro, he's done all we can ask (and is) a guy we can rely on in all situations. We expected him to be responsible in all three zones after seeing him in junior and how he carried himself in the preseason.
"But he's shown a lot more offense than we expected."
Highmore said his game has come a long way thanks in large part to Colliton, who is in his first year with Rockford.
"(I'm) more patient with the puck and (have) more poise," Highmore said. "It's a lot of fun to play with the puck instead of chasing it."
Highmore skated with Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz at practice at the MB Ice Arena on Wednesday, and is expected to make his NHL debut at San Jose on Thursday.
He's excited about the opportunity, but also knows the butterflies will be flying as game time approaches.
"If you weren't nervous, there's something wrong with you," he said, smiling.
And while Highmore's heart was racing pretty fast outside that grocery store Monday, he and his mom did eventually get out of the car.
After all, he had to eat.
"After about 15 minutes I gathered myself and got in there," Highmore said. "Had to pick up a couple of things for dinner."
Now we'll see if he can fill up the net at the next level.