This is the third year that I’ve been around for a Top 25 Under 25 rankings at Second City Hockey, and a lot with the organization has changed over that time. Teuvo Teravainen topped that first list in 2015 because we weren’t quite sure what the Hawks had in a former KHL winger named Artemi Panarin.
Now both of those players are out of the organization, and improbably, Brandon Saad is back among a new host of young players that’ll hopefully lead the Blackhawks to more success in the future. But like with young players in any sport, the NHL is full of guys who don’t pan out, get traded, or both.
That’s what we’re going to dig into a bit here today as we look at the players from last year’s Top 25 Under 25 list who didn’t make this year’s list. There are a number of reasons, one simply being players turning 25, but it’s not always so simple. Here’s a look at everyone from the 2016 list that’s not going to be on our 2017 list.
Artemi Panarin — No. 1
He got traded to the Blue Jackets, but wouldn’t have been eligible anyway after turning 25 last October.
Tyler Motte — No. 8
The other player shipped to Columbus, Motte didn’t exactly impress in his first NHL season. He struggled with just seven points and brutal possession numbers (42.9 even strength Corsi) over 33 games with the Blackhawks. In the AHL, he was only slightly better with 16 points in 43 games.
There’s still bottom-six potential in the NHL here, and he would’ve made the list if he wasn’t traded. But he also wouldn’t have been No. 8 again.
Mark McNeill — No. 10
The Blackhawks finally pulled the plug on McNeill, the No. 18 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, by trading him to the Stars in the spring as part of the deal to re-acquire Johnny Oduya. The 24-year-old is looking more and more like an AHL tweener who won’t cut it at the next level, and he’ll have a hard time making the Stars out of camp.
Fredrik Olofsson — No. 11
Olofsson was probably overrated on last year’s list in retrospect, and he didn’t account for it with a breakout sophomore year at Nebraska-Omaha. He was fine with 24 points in 34 games and remains a prospect, but he’s fallen off the top 25 as the franchise has gotten deeper.
Erik Gustafsson — No. 13
He turned 25 in March.
Luke Johnson — No. 14
Johnson, the Blackhawks’ fifth-round pick in 2013, didn’t have a great AHL debut with Rockford. He’s a defensive-minded center anyway so nobody expected huge numbers, but 17 points in 73 games with Rockford underscores that he’ll have a hard time producing at the NHL level. He could still develop into a bottom-six center, but he’s off the Top 25 Under 25 for now.
Tanner Kero — No. 15
He turned 25 in July.
Carl Dahlstrom — No. 17
An AHL defenseman who brings good size (6’4, 212 pounds), he’s got potential as a depth option in the NHL but may not have the mobility to be much more than that in the modern game.
Dennis Gilbert — No. 18
Gilbert still has potential to be a good NHL defenseman, and was one of the final players cut from this year’s Top 25 Under 25. He’s coming off a solid sophomore season at Notre Dame where he recorded 22 assists in 40 games. The skating ability isn’t great, though, and he’ll need to keep progressing as an all-around player to compensate for that.
Robin Norell — No. 20
Norell is a 22-year-old defensive defenseman who just got caved in playing for Rockford. He’ll need to look a lot better in his second AHL season to start playing his way into the NHL mix.
Robin Press — No. 21
You’ll notice we’re not particularly high on this recent crop of Blackhawks defenseman prospects. Press is another guy who just seems like he could top out in the AHL, as he’s already 22 years old and couldn’t even crack Rockford’s lineup last season. There are too many younger guys with higher upside in the organization now.
Graham Knott — No. 23
Like Gilbert, he’s another guy who was right on the cusp of this year’s rankings. Knott was never great in juniors, though, and he’ll need to prove himself in Rockford before getting a shot in Chicago. The size and skating ability make him intriguing, but the results need to be there.
Roy Radke — No. 25
Radke, the Hawks’ 2015 sixth-round pick, saw his draft rights expire this year without getting a contract offer. He’s no longer Chicago’s exclusive property, and could head to Europe or sign an ELC with another NHL franchise. Radke improved in his third OHL season with 23 goals in 45 games, but not enough to stick around.