As they’re ramping up coverage over The Athletic (disclosure: I’m a contributor for their Chicago site), Corey Pronman is rolling out a ranking of the top 100 NHL players under age 25. Two players from the Blackhawks made the No. 50-100 section: forwards Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz.
Pronman importantly noted at the top that these are “based on talent assessment of who I believe will have the best NHL careers. This ranking is not based on how well a player will perform in the 2017-18 season.” So he’s trying to project long-term here rather than focus only on the next nine months.
The other parameters: “To qualify a player needs to have played at least 25 NHL games in one season, or 50 career games, and be under the age of 25 by September 15, 2017.”
Before getting into the rankings, Blackhawks defensemen Gustav Forsling and Connor Murphy were included as honorable mentions. These players didn’t get any write-ups, but other blue liners in this category include Darnell Nurse and Olli Maatta.
Schmaltz is ranked No. 94, while Hartman is slightly higher at No. 88. Pronman says Schmaltz “can be a dominant playmaker,” but his all-around game has major issues. Hartman is a “decent two-way forward who I think has a little more skill in his game than he gets credit for.”
It’s hard to disagree a good deal with these takes.
The playmaking ability is undeniable with Schmaltz, but we saw firsthand in the playoffs how he can be taken out of games when that’s not clicking. He could be much higher on a list like this with some progress in his game away from the puck and on faceoffs, which would make it easier for him to stick at center. Hartman, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same upside, even if he’s likely to be a solid middle-six winger for the next several years.
Two other notable names on the list are Phillip Danault and Teuvo Teravainen, a pair of former Hawks first-round picks who got traded. Danault, now with the Canadiens, ranks just a couple spots ahead of Hartman. Teravainen, now with the Hurricanes, makes it into the top 60. The Hawks definitely could use those two back in the organization now.
One player missing here is Brandon Saad, so he’ll presumably crack the top 50 somewhere. On our top 25 under 25 rankings, we had Schmaltz ahead of Hartman, Forsling, Murphy, and Alex DeBrincat in the top five. Saad topped that list, and he’ll surely be the highest Blackhawk in Pronman’s rankings. They’re definitely worth giving a read.