With the fourth installment of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 series, we move on to the No. 6-10 group, which starts with a forward who’s coming off a breakout performance at the World Juniors.
All rankings are calculated on a composite score based on votes from Second City Hockey’s six writers.
No. 10 — Philipp Kurashev
Birth date: Oct. 12, 1999 (19)
Acquired via: 2018 NHL Draft — Fourth round (No. 120 overall)
Current team: Quebec Ramparts (QMJHL)
Current stats: 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 36 games
Size: 6-foot, 183 pounds
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked
The 2019 World Juniors provided Kurashev with the platform to breakout, and the young Switzerland native seized that opportunity by scoring a tournament-high six goals. He finished with seven points, placing Kurashev in a tie for second-place for the tournament lead. With Kurashev’s offense leading the way, Switzerland reached the bronze medal game for the first time since 1998, ultimately losing 5-2 to Russia.
Kurashev’s dynamic tournament performance included a hat trick against Denmark and led to general manager Stan Bowman telling Scott Powers of The Athletic that the Blackhawks could “potentially” sign Kurashev to an NHL contract this year.
The combination of Kurashev’s dazzling play at the World Juniors and his production in the QMJHL — where he’s averaging over a point per game — has made Kurashev one of the hottest prospects in the Blackhawks organization.
No. 9 — Dylan Sikura
Birth date: June 1, 1995 (23)
Acquired via: 2014 NHL Draft - Sixth round (178th overall)
Current team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Current stats: 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 29 AHL games; 3 points (3 assists) in 11 NHL games
Size: 5-11, 166 pounds
Contract: One year remaining on entry-level contract, $925,000 cap hit, RFA in 2019
Last T25U25 ranking: 5. Down 4 spots.
After a superb finish to his college career at Northeastern, Sikura was one of the rising stars in Chicago’s system and made his NHL debut near the end of the 2017-18 season. But the luster on Sikura’s star began to fade when he failed to break training camp with the NHL team, spending the first few months of the 2018-19 season in Rockford. To Sikura’s credit, however, he produced with the IceHogs, leading the team with nine goals and 18 assists through 26 games before being recalled by the Blackhawks on Dec. 12.
Sikura spent the next month in Chicago, playing in 11 games while notching three assists. While he was sent back to the AHL earlier this month, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said it was more about Sikura’s development than an indictment of his performance:
Colliton on Sikura: "We think he's got the chance to be a top 9 player & we don't want him to stop developing offensively. So that's kind of the reason behind if he wasn't going to be in the top 9 necessarily night in and night out then let's get him back playing in Rockford..."— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) January 5, 2019
Sikura is entering a crucial stage of his career. At 23 years old, he’s significantly older than many other prospects within the organization, which means he doesn’t have as much time to prove himself as other, younger prospects do. And within the calendar year of 2019, Sikura likely needs to prove he’s worthy of a longer NHL look or he may get passed on the organizational depth chart by someone else.
No. 8 — Dominik Kahun
Birth date: July 2, 1995 (23)
Acquired via: Free agency
Current team: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Current stats: 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists), 51.0 CF%, 53.4 oZS% in 48 games
Size: 5-11, 175 pounds
Contract: Two-year, entry-level contract, $925K salary cap hit. Restricted free agent (RFA) in 2020
Last T25U25 ranking: 21. Up 13 spots.
Kahun registered on NHL radars with impressive performances at the Winter Olympics and World Championships last year, eventually signing with the Blackhawks in the summer of 2018. This season, he’s been a mainstay in the top-6, often skating alongside Jonathan Toews. Kahun is averaging 14:35 of ice time per night and routinely takes the ice with Chicago’s second power play unit. His production hasn’t been bad, with 19 points in 48 games, but it does seem a touch light for a player who’s been in the top six all season long.
Considering that this was a player brought from overseas to the NHL, however, Kahun’s ability to mesh with the top six and be a constant presence in the lineup is noteworthy. The question is where Kahun would fit in with this team in the future. If the Blackhawks return to their era of dominance, can a top-six forward producing point totals in the mid-30s be enough? And if he was dropped down to the bottom six, would Kahun still be able to produce at his current rate? That’s the question to be answered in the upcoming seasons.
No. 7 — Nicolas Beaudin
Birth date: Oct. 7, 1999 (19)
Acquired via: 2018 NHL Draft — First round (No. 27 overall)
Current team: Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Current stats: 37 points (6 goals, 31 assists) in 30 games
Size: 5-11, 174 pounds
Contract: Three years remaining on entry-level deal, $925k cap hit, RFA in 2022 (candidate for contract slide)
Last T25U25 ranking: 9. Up 2 spots.
The Blackhawks selected Beaudin near the end of the first-round and then brought him into the organization five months later when they signed Beaudin to an entry-level contract on Nov. 9. That was good news for Beaudin after bad news that arrived in late October, when he was ruled “out indefinitely” with a wrist fracture.
The injury only sidelined Beaudin for about three weeks, though, and Beaudin returned to the Drummondville lineup in mid-November and hasn’t left, ranking third among QMJHL defensemen with 37 points despite that brief injury layoff.
Beaudin did not skate for Team Canada in the World Juniors, cut from the roster just a few weeks before the tournament began. But Beaudin took the news in stride:
“Team Canada is one of the toughest rosters to get on. It’s not easy. It’s just motivation for me,” said Beaudin.
He’ll finish the season in the QMJHL, but next season is where the real intrigue will begin for Beaudin, as he — along with several other blue-line prospects for the Blackhawks — could begin making the leap to the NHL for the 2019-20 season.
No. 6 — Ian Mitchell
Position: Defenseman (right-handed)
Birth date: Jan. 18, 1999 (19)
Acquired via: 2017 NHL Draft — Second round (57th overall)
Current team: University of Denver (NCAA)
Current stats: 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 18 games
Size: 5-11, 173 pounds
Last T25U25 ranking: 8. Up 2 spots.
Unlike Beaudin, Mitchell was not a victim of the late cuts for Team Canada’s roster and skated in five games with one goal and two assists during the World Juniors.
Mitchell has been a significant prospect in the organization since his stellar freshman season at Denver in 2017-18. In an NHL.com article where Mitchell discussed modeling his game after Duncan Keith, Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mark Kelly had some high praise for Mitchell:
“He has to continue to mature as a player and get a little stronger physically, but with Ian we didn’t really recognize any areas where he was deficient,” said Kelley. “He’s an elite skater, he’s a very smart player and what also stands out is his decision-making with the puck, especially in the defensive zone.”
Nothing that Mitchell’s done this season with Denver has taken away from the hype building around the 2017 second-round pick. And, like Beaudin, Mitchell will be one of the players to watch at prospect camp this summer and training camp next fall.