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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Carl Dahlstrom at top of Nos. 16-20 group

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Chad Krys, Niklas Nordgren, Gustav Forsling and Lucas Carlsson join the middle of the pack.

Chicago Blackhawks v New York Islanders Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The second installment of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 series focusing on Nos. 16 to 20. This particular group has four defensemen Lucas Carlsson, Gustav Forsling, Chad Krys and Carl Dahlstrom, and one forward in Niklas Nordgren.

All rankings are calculated on a composite score based on votes from Second City Hockey’s six writers.

No. 20 — Lucas Carlsson

Position: Left-handed defenseman

Birth date: July 5th, 1997 (Age 21)

Acquired via: 2016 NHL Draft - 4th round (110th overall)

Current team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)

Current stats: 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 34 games

Size: 6-feet, 190 pounds

Contract: 3 years - $792.5K salary cap hit. Restricted free agent (RFA) in 2021

Last T25U25 ranking: 14. Down 6 spots.

Carlsson joined the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL this season after many years of development in Sweden’s junior national team program and with Brynäs IF of the SHL. He was an impressive two-way defenseman in Sweden with loads of confidence in his offensive game. His offensive abilities are translating over to the AHL and signed a three-year contract with the Hawks last May. General manager Stan Bowman sees Carlsson as one of his top Swedish defensive prospects and I would not be surprised to see him on a trial run in the NHL near the end of this season.

This goal is from 2016, but it demonstrates the offensive potential Carlsson has from the blue line.

Here is a nice defensive recovery during prospect camp this summer.

No. 19 — Gustav Forsling

Position: Left-handed defenseman

Birth date: June 12, 1996 (22)

Acquired via: Trade with Vancouver (2015) for Adam Clendening

Current team: Chicago Blackhawks

Current stats: 6 points (2G, 4A), 18:46 TOI, 47.9 Corsi-For in 19GP

Size: 6-feet, 186 pounds

Contract: 1 year — $872.5K salary cap hit. RFA

Last T25U25 ranking: 6. Down 13 spots.

Forsling is another defenseman in the pipeline for the Hawks. At 22 years old, he has already played in 98 NHL games with the Hawks, but never a full season. This season, he has found himself on injured reserve multiple times, and has had some tough stretches with taking penalties and poor possession metrics. However, there are shifts where he shows off his speed, skill and shot from the blue line.

Forsling and needs to start playing more consistently and stay out of the penalty box if he wants to remain in the Hawks system.

No. 18 — Niklas Nordgren

Position: Right wing

Birth date: May 4, 2000 (18)

Acquired via: 2018 NHL Draft - Third-round (74th overall)

Current team: HIFK — SM-Liiga (Finland)

Current stats: 14 points (6G, 8A) in 9GP with HIFK U20 squad; 7 points (4G, 3A), 14:14 TOI in 14GP with HIFK senior squad

Size: 5’9, 170 pounds

Contract: Unsigned

Last T25U25 ranking: 24. Up 6 spots.

Nordgren has been a product of Finland’s HIFK and national team development program since the 2014-2015 season. He was called up to HIKF’s senior squad at only 18 years old, and continues to produce offensively.

Here is a clip from last year’s under-18 World Junior Championship when he scored the golden goal for Finland against Jack Hughes and the United States.

His offense prowess has been on steady display for HIFK this season, and he continues to prove he was worth the third round pick.

He has lots of time to develop his game in Finland’s top league.

No. 17 — Chad Krys

Position: Left-handed defenseman

Birth date: April 10, 1998 (20)

Acquired via: 2016 NHL Draft - Second-round (45th overall)

Current team: Boston University Terriers (NCAA)

Current stats: 8 points (3G, 5A), 22 shots in 10GP

Size: 5’11, 185 pounds

Contract: Unsigned

Injury Note: Krys has missed four games while being out with undisclosed injury since Dec. 1.

Last T25U25 ranking: 13. Down 4 spots.

Krys is in his junior season with Boston University, and has made some highlight-reel worthy plays for the Terriers. Here are some clips from prospect camp and the NCAA.

Krys isn’t among the core four defensive prospects in the Hawks system, but he has the potential to join the IceHogs after his junior season ends at BU. The Hockey East conference, which BU is in, agreed to a broadcasting deal with FloSports this month so Blackhawks fans will be able to watch Krys more once he returns from injury.

No. 16 — Carl Dahlstrom

Position: Left-handed defenseman

Birth date: Jan. 28, 1995 (23)

Acquired via: 2013 NHL Draft - Second-round (51st overall)

Current team: Chicago Blackhawks

Current stats: 4 assists, +5, 16 SOG, 19:37 TOI, 43.3 Corsi-For in 14GP

Size: 6‘4”, 231 pounds

Contract: 1 year, $750,833 salary cap hit; RFA after this season

Last T25U25 ranking: 23. Up 7 spots.

Dahlstrom started this season with Jeremy Collition in the AHL. The defenseman was called up to the Hawks on Dec. 12, when Artem Anisimov was placed in concussion protocol. When Dahlstrom was drafted in 2013, his scouting report focused on his defensive acumen, size and reach to separate opposing players from the puck, and his ability to get out of scrums with above average hands and skill for his size. Since he moved up to the NHL, Dahlstrom has paired up with Connor Murphy as the shutdown pair. Colliton has started to utilize the pair against top scoring lines and on penalty kills.

Dahlstrom’s defensive ability has been noticeable this season. He rarely goes out of his way to finish a check, but what he does do well is use his size and reach to close gaps on puck carriers. Consequently, he forces them to throw the puck away or turn right into an incoming Hawk ready to pounce on a fumbled puck. He has quietly put up some decent numbers with a plus-5 rating, while averaging 19-plus minutes on the ice. His Corsi-For seems a bit low, but that is due to his role.

He is a restricted free agent after this season. With all the high-end defensive prospects making their way up the pipeline, Dahlstrom will need to continue to prove his worth with Murphy night in and night out. One area of his game that he can improve is his technique when playing odd-man rushes. He slides way too early to try and block the pass on 2-on-1s or has trouble understanding what his assignment is on a 3-on-2.

Here is an example of a 2-on-1 from Monday’s tilt against Calgary. Dahlstrom slid too early, which gave Johnny Gaudreau an easy saucer right to Sean Monahan. Brent Seabrook is a master at timing his slides or his gaps on odd man rushes and could be a mentor for Dahlstrom in this area of his game.

Dahlstrom has definitely improved his game since last season. If he makes a few tweaks to his defensive techniques and builds more confidence in his decision making, he’ll likely receive another contract from the Hawks.