We're closing in on the Top 10 in our ranking of the Blackhawks' Top 25 Under 25 with the latest installment. This group features mostly newer names who could still be a few years away, along with one player who's already reached the NHL level. To see the posts on Nos. 16-25 in the rankings, check out the links here and here. The first post also breaks down the system we used to put these rankings together.
Here are Nos. 11-15 on the SCH Top 25 Under 25:
15. John Hayden
Birth date: Feb. 14, 1995 (age 20)
Acquired via: Third round (No. 74 overall), 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: Yale University (NCAA)
Size: 6'3, 223 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, heading into junior year at Yale
Opening our third installment of the organization's top young players is Hayden, a former third-round pick. Hayden just finished his sophomore year at Yale, posting 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 29 games -- an improvement from recording 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 33 games his freshman year. A major aspect of that improvement is that he spent much more time at center in 2014-15 after having spent most of the time at right wing in his first year.
Hayden also played with the USA U20 team at the World Junior Championships, serving as an assistant captain for the squad. However, his performance was a bit underwhelming, as he posted just one assist in five games at the WJCs. Heading into his junior year at Yale, he should have a bigger role for the Bulldogs and, as a result, a better chance to improve his production.
In terms of skill, Hayden is a relatively strong skater. A center who's gotten bigger over time, he's unafraid to use that size and skating ability to win the puck in tight areas, especially in front of the net. He's also very comfortable skating the puck himself, and is an adept passer. However, nothing about his game is particularly special. He's never really going to wow you with his skating, passing or shooting, and while he does use his size well, he's still not the biggest guy out there.
Given his skill set and the Blackhawks extreme depth at the center position in the NHL and throughout the system, it's tough to project Hayden's future. Best case scenario is probably that he winds up as a third line, power-forward type center at the NHL level.
Highest ranking: No. 9
Lowest ranking: No. 19
14. Radovan Bondra
Position: Right wing
Birth date: Jan. 27, 1997 (age 18)
Acquired via: Fifth Round (No. 151 overall), 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: HC Košice (Slovakia)
Size: 6'5, 218 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, could play 2015-16 with Vancouver Giants of WHL
If you were going to construct the ideal power forward, it would likely look something like Radovan Bondra. At 6'5 and 218 pounds, Bondra is a big, strong forward with a skilled game. He played with Slovakia's U18 team for most of last year -- appearing in just 17 games of domestic play -- and notched six goals and six assists in those games. After appearing on the Slovakia U20 team at the WJC, he joined his first professional team, HC Košice of Slovakia's Extraliga. He posted two goals and two assists in 15 regular season games with the club, and contributed one goal and two assists in 15 playoff games as Košice won the Extraliga championship.
Prior to the draft, ESPN's Corey Pronman listed Bondra among the honorable mentions for his top 100 list. That makes his selection at No. 151 a good value move by the Hawks.
Bondra's projection is still up in the air a bit, largely due to how recently he was drafted. He was never overly successful at any stage in Slovakia, but could start to find his stride more this year if he makes the jump to North America to play with the WHL's Vancouver Giants, who drafted him No. 8 overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. Another reason for Bondra's unclear status is that he is one of many forwards in the Blackhawks system that you could file under "has size and skill." He also isn't even the best power forward that Chicago drafted in June, as that title belongs to another player listed below (no peaking!).
With that said, if Bondra can develop that skill more and learn to combine his size and skill well, he could make some noise in the coming years. He is definitely a name to keep an eye on over the next few years as he develops.
Highest ranking: No. 11
Lowest ranking: No. 15
13. Gustav Forsling
Birth date: June 12, 1996 (age 19)
Acquired via: Trade with Vancouver Canucks, Jan. 2015
Most recent stop: Linköpings HC (Sweden)
Size: 5'11, 183 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, two years remaining on contract with Linköpings HC
Forsling has already emerged as one of the Blackhawks' top prospects on the blue line since being acquired in exchange for Adam Clendening in a midseason deal. When you wonder why the team was okay with trading a talented young defenseman like Stephen Johns this summer, the knowledge that players like Forsling are in the pipeline helps, even if he's still a couple years away.
Back in May, Pronman noted during one of his chats that Forsling significantly raised his stock this season. The young Swede fell short of Pronman's top 100 list for this year, being listed as an honorable mention, but it's clear he's trending upwards and becoming a major part of the Blackhawks' farm system.
After rising through the youth teams with Linköpings HC since going pro as a teenager, Forsling finally landed in Sweden's top league last season. Appearing in 38 games, he recorded six points (three goals, three assists). As a member of the Sweden U20 team at the WJC, Forsling added eight points (three goals, five assists) in just seven games.
Forsling isn't an imposing physical presence or elite offensive defenseman, but he brings a nice balance of size and skills in an increasingly polished package. At age 19 and still under contract with Linköpings HC, he probably won't crack the NHL roster any time soon, but that should give him more time to develop and show how good he can be. At the very least, it appears that the Hawks turned the Clendening deal into a fantastic asset for the future.
Highest ranking: No. 10
Lowest ranking: No. 20
12. David Rundblad
Birth date: Oct. 8, 1990 (age 24)
Acquired via: Trade with Arizona Coyotes, March 2014
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks
Size: 6'2, 187 pounds
Contract: Two-year, one-way contract; $1.05 million cap hit in 2015-16; RFA in 2017
And now we come to one of the most polarizing players on the list. Rundblad has been a mixed bag with the Blackhawks since a March 2014 trade with the Coyotes. At times, you can see the booming slap shot and smart offensive game that made him a top prospect. At other times, you see a 24-year-old who still scrambles and loses his composure when teams press him in the defensive end.
All of that makes Rundblad a difficult player to peg. Still, it seems like the Blackhawks are still very much intrigued by him. That would explain why he kept getting playing time throughout the regular season and ended up receiving a two-year, $2.1 million contract extension this summer. Chicago isn't done figuring out what it has in Rundblad, and in 2015-16, he should get his best chance to show he can be a steady top-6 option.
After playing in a total of 55 NHL games with three different teams during his age 21-23 seasons, Rundblad appeared in a career-high 49 games with the Blackhawks last season. Averaging just under 13 minutes of ice time per game, he recorded 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) and had very good possession numbers. He also had the good fortune of playing behind red-hot goaltenders, as Corey Crawford and company had a 94.3 percent save rate when Rundblad was on the ice.
The question for Rundblad, as it has always been, comes down to his play in his own zone. The Anaheim Ducks showed in the postseason that aggressively going after Rundblad can get him to make mistakes, and those jitters can be killer to a defenseman's game even if he can shoot a bit. You have to imagine getting Rundblad to improve defensively is one of the coaching staff's goals for the upcoming season.
And you know he'll get a shot. With only Trevor van Riemsdyk under contract as an obvious partner for a third pairing, Rundblad is clearly being expected to take a larger role next season. The hope is that a full 82-game slate of opportunities, after getting a taste of the playoffs this year, will have him ready for the bigger, brighter stage come next spring. Otherwise, we're probably running out of time for Rundblad to become more than an offensive-minded depth guy.
Highest ranking: No. 11
Lowest ranking: No. 15
11. Graham Knott
Position: Left wing
Birth date: Jan. 13, 1997 (Age 18)
Acquired via: Second Round (No. 54 overall), 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Most recent stop: Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Size: 6'3, 188 pounds
Contract: Unsigned, likely to spend 2015-16 in Niagara
The Blackhawks' first pick in this year's entry draft, Knott is a big bodied winger with a good combination of size and skill. He's strong in front of the net, often leading to him scoring the tough, greasy goals. However, his scoring isn't limited to net front rebounds, as he has a strong, accurate shot. He's a decent skater, but still has room to improve in that sense.
All in all, he brings good size and a good shot to the left wing position, and has the potential to develop into a scoring threat from in front of the net and in the slot. He's essentially the prototypical power forward. In 59 appearances for Niagara last year, he posted 25 goals and 18 assists for a total of 43 points. He also scored one goal and notched three assisted in five appearances with Canada's U18 team at the U18 WJC.
One slight knock on Knott is that perhaps it shouldn't have been his name that Stan Bowman called on draft day, as there were a number of players rated better than Knott still on the board, including Oliver Kylington, who went to the Calgary Flames and was just ranked the No. 35 prospect in the NHL by Pronman. Presumably Chicago's draft board looked a bit different than Pronman's, but it's fair to wonder whether the team took the best player available.
For that reason, the Blackhawks may look for Knott to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and push to develop as a solid contributor at the NHL level a bit quicker. Regardless, Knott is a solid prospect and given his mix of size and skill, he should be able to compete for a roster spot in a few years.
Highest ranking: No. 10
Lowest ranking: No. 13