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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Mark McNeill is still around, and he’s No. 10

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The former first-round pick sneaks into the top 10 on our Top 25 Under 25 rankings.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Mark McNeill hasn’t gone anywhere (it’s true!) and he enters our Top 25 Under 25 rankings at No. 10. It’s been an interesting couple years for McNeill, who has put up numbers in the AHL but regularly gotten passed over for NHL opportunities. Now entering his age 23 season, it’s fair to wonder what McNeill’s future in Chicago will bring. If he doesn’t earn a chance with the Hawks sooner or later, you have to imagine he’ll get it elsewhere.

Key info

Position: Right wing
Birth date: Feb. 22, 1993
Acquired via: First round pick (No. 18 overall) in 2012 NHL Draft
Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Nationality: Canadian
Size: 6’2, 214 pounds
Contract: 1-year, 2-way contract ($600K in NHL, $200K in AHL)

Breakdown

McNeill was one of the hardest prospects to rank for this list. He’s a former first-round pick who has produced in the AHL over the past two seasons, yet his career in Chicago seems destined to sputter to an end before it ever really gets started. The team re-signed him to a one-year contract in restricted free agency over the summer, but he almost never gets named as a prime option to fill one of the many holes on the roster.

What does McNeill think of guys like Nick Schmaltz, who just signed months ago, being talked up as possible linemates for Jonathan Toews while he potentially toils in Rockford for another year? Not that he’s going to start openly complaining or demand a trade, but the dynamic here will be interesting to watch. McNeill is getting to that age where he needs to get his NHL shot. Unfortunately for him, there’s an apparent divide in the Hawks organization over whether he’s ready for it yet.

McNeill will get his shot again — probably his best shot — to make an impact in the upcoming season. The low salary of $600,000 on his contract gives him a leg up over more costly guys like Schmaltz and Tyler Motte as the Hawks play the money game. He’s shown he’s more than good enough for the AHL. As a power forward who can play in the tight areas and bring some size, the fit is there, too. But if the chance in Chicago doesn’t come this season, it’s hard to see when it ever will.

What's next in 2016-17

It’s go time for McNeill. He turns 24 years old in February and is already playing on his second contract. There seems like some real potential for him to be a solid bottom-six forward next season. But if he can’t beat out a bunch of first-year players and the likes of Jordin Tootoo, Brandon Mashinter and Dennis Rasmussen for a roster spot, then the message being sent from the Hawks about his future prospects here seems pretty clear.

Second City Hockey's Top 25 Under 25 rankings

No. 10: Mark McNeill

No. 11: Fredrik Olofsson

No. 12: Chad Krys

No. 13: Erik Gustafsson

No. 14: Luke Johnson

No. 15: Tanner Kero

No. 16: Artur Kayumov

No. 17: Carl Dahlstrom

No. 18: Dennis Gilbert

No. 19: Luc Snuggerud

No. 20: Robin Norell

No. 21: Robin Press

No. 22: Dylan Sikura

No. 23: Graham Knott

No. 24: Anthony Louis

No. 25: Roy Radke

Honorable mentions: Radovan Bondra, Joni Tuulola, Mathias From, John Dahlstrom, Lucas Carlsson