The next section in our ranking of the Blackhawks' top 25 under 25 years old is here! It's another mix of NHL-ready players in their mid-20s and some younger prospects who could tap into greater potential. For a reminder on how our rankings work and who slotted into the first five spots, here's our post on Nos. 21-25.
It's also worth noting that ESPN's resident prospect guru, Corey Pronman, released his latest Top 100 prospect rankings on Thursday. The Hawks' biggest young names -- Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano -- don't qualify for that list, but Artemi Panarin (No. 34), Ryan Hartman (No. 61) and Ville Pokka (No. 64) all made it, while Gustav Forsling was an honorable mention. All six of those players feature prominently in our rankings.
Garret Ross, Carl Dahlstrom, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero and Luc Snuggerud were ranked Nos. 21-25 on our list.
Here are Nos. 16-20 on the SCH Top 25 Under 25:
20. Fredrik Olofsson
Position: Left wing
Birth date: May 27, 1996 (age 19)
Acquired via: Fourth round (98th overall) in 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: Chicago Steel (USHL)
Size: 6'2, 197 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, set to play 2015-16 with Nebraska-Omaha
The leading goal-scorer for the USHL's Chicago Steel during the 2014-15 season, Olofsson's two-way game makes him an intriguing prospect at the NHL level. Committed to play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha during the upcoming season, he won't be joining the Blackhawks anytime soon but could develop into a quality wing on both ends of the ice.
In 57 games with the Steel last season, Olofsson recorded 60 points (27 goals, 33 assists) and tied for the team lead with seven power play goals. The numbers were a massive step up from the 2013-14 season, in which he recorded just 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 52 games while playing for the Steel and Green Bay Gamblers. The improvement was apparent at this year's prospect camp, too. "Olofsson showed real progress from last year’s camp," ESPN's Scott Powers wrote. "He made some offensive plays from the wing and was able to create scoring chances."
Now that Olofsson has begun adjusting to North American hockey, he'll look to take his game to the next level at Nebraska-Omaha, where he'll play with fellow Hawks prospect Snuggerud. Olofsson had originally committed to Colorado College because his brother, Gustav, played there, but opted to re-open his recruitment after Gustav joined the Minnesota Wild organization and coach Scott Owens left the school.
After going from 0.40 points per game to 1.05 points per game during his two seasons in the USHL, there's reason to be optimistic about Olofsson tapping his potential in the future.
Highest ranking: No. 17
Lowest ranking: Unranked
19. Kyle Baun
Position: Right wing
Birth date: May 4, 1992 (age 23)
Acquired via: Signed as college free agent
Most recent stop: Colgate (NCAA)
Size: 6'2, 209 pounds
Contract: Entry-level; $858,750 cap hit for 2015-16; RFA in 2016
More than half the league reportedly had interest in signing Baun last spring before he agreed to a two-year entry-level deal with the Blackhawks. The team unfortunately had to burn one of those years in 2014-15, with Baun making a brief three-game appearance late in the regular season, but that also gave the Chicago coaching staff a chance to get an early look at the 23-year-old.
One person who's been consistently high on Baun in public is Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who offered some uncharacteristic praise of the rookie in the spring.
Joel Quenneville said Kyle Baun was "outstanding in every game he played. ... NHL pace, terrific mind for the game." #Blackhawks— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 12, 2015
As many as 18 teams, including the Red Wings, Flames, Jets and Oilers, wanted Baun, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. He wasn't eligible to play in the postseason, which explains why he was a non-factor, but he'll be competing for playing time in the fall with the Hawks' myriad forward options.
Baun is NHL-ready, offers size (6'2, 209 pounds) and has some offensive ability. During his junior year at Colgate, the 23-year-old recorded 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists) in 38 games. It's also not often you hear Quenneville praising someone three games into his NHL career for his pace and "terrific mind," which might play in his favor. Quenneville has certainly influenced roster choices before.
Making the Hawks in the fall would mean beating out a lot of guys, though, so it'll be interesting to see how that situation plays out. Otherwise, Baun will presumably head to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs to begin the 2015-16 season, hoping to make enough of an impression to get the call if there's an injury or some other opening.
Highest ranking: No. 17
Lowest ranking: Unranked
18. Joakim Nordstrom
Position: Left wing
Birth date: Feb. 25, 1992 (age 23)
Acquired via: Third round (No. 90 overall) in 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Size: 6'1, 189 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, current RFA, expected to re-sign
No, Nordstrom isn't currently under contract with the Blackhawks. No, Nordstrom can't really score. Still, running under the assumption that the team will re-sign him as a restricted free agent, he's the kind of versatile, NHL-ready forward that provides valuable depth to an organization.
The Rockford captain briefly last season before being called up by Chicago, Nordstrom is a solid defensive forward who understands his skillset and plays within the system. He's not a dynamic offensive player in any sense of the phrase -- we're talking zero goals and three assists in 38 NHL games last season -- but he can play on the penalty kill and offer steady fourth-line minutes in case of emergency.
The Blackhawks have more interesting options, both in terms of NHL-ready prospects and players with greater upside, but Nordstrom would quickly stick somewhere else if Chicago decided there wasn't room for him. Even if he has the lowest upside of any player listed in the rankings, he's a surefire depth forward who can slot at center or wing and has already contributed to a Stanley Cup-winning team. When you're paying a premium for superstars, affordable depth is always valuable.
Highest ranking: No. 13
Lowest ranking: No. 21
17. Vincent Hinostroza
Birth date: April 3, 1994 (age 21)
Acquired via: Sixth round (No. 169 overall) in 2012 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Size: 5'9, 158 pounds
Contract: Entry-level; $717,500 cap hit for 2015-16; RFA in 2018
Here's an example of a young player who went to college and significantly improved his stock. Hinostroza, a Bartlett, Ill., native, was drafted by the Blackhawks in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, then showed at the University of Notre Dame that he could overcome his lack of size by emerging as one of the Fighting Irish's best players.
As a sophomore, Hinostroza finished strong en route to a team-leading 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) in 42 games. A gifted passer who likes to create offensive chances, he was fourth in the country in assists and 11th in points, with 29 of them coming over his final 20 games.
When Hinostroza signed with the Hawks in March, bypassing his final two years at Notre Dame, Blackhawks director of player development Barry Smith spoke highly of the 21-year-old.
"He’s an energetic, fearless player," Smith said. "Competing comes natural for him. He has good hands and he has good feel, and he has a chance to get separation to create things. He wants the puck. Some guys only want it if they think they’re open. He wants it all the time.
"He’s busy. He’s around the puck. He plays a good shift. If you look at his heart rate per shift, he plays up. He’ll go to the throttle. He goes to the net. He’s just go. He doesn’t care who he’s playing against. He’s one of those street kids that just wants to play."
I don't know about heart rates per shift, but that kind of high-energy, fluid play is a big part of what the Blackhawks do.
There are reasonable concerns about Hinostroza's lack of size -- his official measurements (5'9, 158 pounds) mirror my own and I spend my days watching YouTube -- but it's rare for the Blackhawks to pluck a guy from college early. Over the past five years, only Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen and Adam Clendening have signed with the Blackhawks before their senior season.
At this year's prospect camp, Powers said Hinostroza "looked like he belonged with the older players." For a 5'9 center who has only played two college seasons and been able to legally drink for a few months, that's high praise. Expect the forward to start next season in Rockford.
Highest ranking: No. 15
Lowest ranking: No. 22
16. Erik Gustafsson
Birth date: March 14, 1992 (age 23)
Acquired via: Signed as free agent
Most recent stop: Frölunda HC (Swedish Hockey League)
Size: 6'0, 203 pounds
Contract: Entry-level, $667,500 cap hit for 2015-16; RFA in 2017
A Swedish defenseman?? You don't say!!
Gustafsson was signed by the Hawks in April after the Edmonton Oilers allowed him to hit free agency. Originally drafted by the Oilers in the fourth round of 2012 draft, Gustafsson never signed with the team and, per NHL rules, Edmonton lost its rights to the defenseman after two years.
That opened the door for the Blackhawks to nab Gustafsson, and during the team's prospect camp in July, the 23-year-old made a good impression on management. After spending the past two years in a key role with Frölunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League, Gustafsson thinks he's ready to make the NHL leap in 2015-16.
"I’m not coming over here to have a goal to go down to the AHL. I’m coming over here hunting for a spot on the NHL team," Gustafsson said at prospect camp.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman also praised Gustafsson at camp, saying the Swede "caught his eye among the defensemen." While it's fair to assume that the first six defensemen on the depth chart will be Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley, Trevor van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad, there's still room for at least more option on the roster.
Gustafsson could be that guy given his experience playing in Sweden's top league and balanced skillset. His left-handed shot would also give the team another option on a blue line that's otherwise evenly mixed between lefty shooters (Keith, Daley, Hjalmarsson) and righty shooters (Seabrook, TVR, Rundblad).
During the past two seasons in Sweden, Gustafsson recorded 49 points (six goals, 43 assists) in 105 games.
Highest ranking: No. 14
Lowest ranking: Unranked