(The top 10 continues in our ranking of the Hawks' best players under 25 years old! Here's the post on No. 8, Ryan Hartman. For the first 15 names in the rankings, here are the posts on Nos. 11-15, Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 21-25.)
In the March of 2014, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman inked college UFA defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two-year entry-level contract. At the time, the signing didn't earn much fanfare, being perceived mostly as a move to solidify defensive depth within the organization. Had we done this prospect list last summer, it's highly unlikely that van Riemsdyk would've be ranked at all, let alone come in No. 7.
However, after making the main roster out of training camp last October, TVR quickly showed that he can hang at the NHL level as a solid defenseman. His game proved to be extremely sound on both ends of the ice, and he quickly earned the trust of coach Joel Quenneville. He was paired with Duncan Keith on the top pair at times, and also was used by Q on his offside, showing just how much the coach trusted him to play a sound game no matter what. Van Riemsdyk also proved to be a possession monster, posting a 60.05% CF in 5v5 play.
Unfortunately, TVR had his season cut short after just 18 games, as he suffered a left patella fracture after blocking a shot against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 16. He had surgery to repair the broken bone later that week and was expected miss 3-4 months. He made a return from injury for the Rockford IceHogs in late March, but shortly thereafter suffered yet another injury, this time needing wrist surgery and another eight weeks in recovery.
That wasn't the end of van Riemsdkyk's season, though, as he did eventually return to the lineup for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, appearing in four games, including the Cup-clinching Game 6. However, he was very limited in his playing time, and was largely overwhelmed in those appearances, posting just a 45.28% CF.
Regardless of the injury and sub-par play in the Stanley Cup Final, TVR is still very deserving of this No. 7 ranking among young Blackhawks. His play during the regular season was very encouraging, and while it may be a bit unrealistic to expect him to be at quite the same level he was at prior to his injury last November, he should be completely capable of being a solid contributor on Chicago's blue line during the upcoming season.
His spot on the main roster for the upcoming season is all but guaranteed, as he is easily among the six best defensemen in the Blackhawks' organization, and he carries an extremely favorable cap hit at just $925,000 for the 2015-16 season. The team also clearly believes in his abilities, considering he got Cup Final playing time and a two-year, $1.65 million extension this summer (which is set to begin in 2016-17). Expect to see TVR as a member of the Blackhawks' blue line for at least the next three seasons, hopefully more.
TVR's future on the blue line is probably bright. While he is unlikely to ever become a top-tier NHL defenseman, he has top-four potential. He is a solid skater, is positionally sound in the defensive zone and has a promising offensive game. He's a strong puck mover with a sound defensive game, with plenty of room to grow in both areas. As he continues to grow and mature, he should continue to blow past the expectations most had when he was initially signed. Whether he's a cheap third-pairing guy or something even more, TVR's oft-smiling face should be around Chicago for a while.
Birth date: July 21, 1991 (age 24)
Acquired via: Signed as college UFA, March 2014
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks
Size: 6'2, 185 pounds
Contract: Entry-level; $925,000 cap hit for 2015-16; $825,000 cap hit 2016-18; RFA in 2018
Highest ranking: No. 6
Lowest ranking: No. 10