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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Alex DeBrincat moves to No. 1

Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, Collin Delia and Dylan Strome round out the top five.

Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There’s a No. 1 in the Second City Hockey Top 25 Under 25 Blackhawks player rankings as winger Alex DeBrincat moves up one spot. Even if Nick Schmaltz, who was the No. 1 last August, was still with the Blackhawks, DeBrincat would have taken the top spot.

Defensemen Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist also moved up one spot. Goaltender Collin Delia jumps up seven spots, while Dylan Strome enters the fray at No. 5. Strome also was No. 5 in SB Nation’s Five For Howling’s Coyotes T25U25 list prior to the trade.

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

No. 5 — Dylan Strome

Position: Center

Birth date: March 7, 1997 (Age 21)

Acquired via: Trade with Arizona

Current team: Blackhawks

Current stats: 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists), 44.2 CF% and 46.9 FO% in 45 games

Size: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds

Contract: 2 years, $863,333 (RFA 2020)

Last T25U25 ranking: No. 5 by Five For Howling

Chicago acquired Strome and Brendan Perlini for Nick Schmaltz from Arizona in November. Strome only had three goals and six points in 20 games with Arizona prior to the move, and has since put up nine goals and 16 points in 25 outings for Chicago.

Strome is a slow skater, but by having his linemates and driving the puck up the ice they’re able to draw the defense away from him so he can set up a passing lane for an effective high-low cycle play. By being a setup guy in this system, he can set up his wings to rack up big scoring chances. He’s also provided the Blackhawks some presence in front of the net by screening opposing goalies, which has helped the team in an area they’ve lacked the past few seasons.

All signs are pointing to this trade being a win for Blackhawks.

No. 4 — Collin Delia

Position: Goaltender

Birth date: June 20, 1994 (24)

Acquired via: Free agency

Current team: Blackhawks

Current stats: 3-2-3, 2.75 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in nine NHL games

Size: 6-2, 208 pounds

Contract: 1 year, $767,500 (RFA 2019)

Last T25U25 ranking: No. 12. Up 7 spots.

Delia is another prospect that has exceeded expectations this season. After emerging as one of the AHL’s best goaltenders, he was called up on an “emergency basis” when Corey Crawford went down with his second known concussion in less than a year. Delia has shown he’s a capable NHL netminder, and he’s doing a lot of work, too, as he’s faced the most high-danger shots per 60 minutes in the NHL this season.

One thing people have criticized Delia for is his rebound control, so I reached out to goalie expert Cat Silverman of The Athletic for an explanation on it.

“Delia tends to allow more rebounds, but it’s not an unintentional thing. He uses a stiffer pad and tries to put the puck as far out as possible to keep the play going.”

Silverman: Strong AHL goaltending provides Blackhawks with more options one year after Crawford’s first concussion

With no word on when Crawford will return it looks like Delia, who was named an AHL All-Star, is here to stay in the NHL.

No. 3 — Adam Boqvist

Position: Right-handed defenseman

Birth date: Aug. 15, 2000 (18)

Acquired via: 2018 first round

Current team: London Knights (OHL)

Current stats: 29 points (11G, 18A) in 28 GP

Size: 6 foot, 181 pounds

Contract: 3 years, $925K (RFA 2021)

Last T25U25 ranking: No. 4. Up 1 spot.

Boqvist is living up to his billing as an offensive-minded defenseman, and he’s improving his game in the defensive zone as well. The Blackhawks have to pleased with the performance they saw from Boqvist at World Juniors, where he had a goal, three assists and 20 shots on goal for Sweden in a second-pairing role. In five games for London since returning from World Juniors, he has two goals and four points to give him a point in 20-of-28 games this season.

The Knights are firmly in playoff position and are highly likely to still be playing in the postseason by the time the Blackhawks’ season is over, so don’t expect to see Boqvist in the NHL this season. He did sign his entry-level contract last July, and should be in line for a roster spot come next fall.

No. 2 — Henri Jokiharju

Position: Right-handed defenseman

Birth date: June 17, 1999 (19)

Acquired via: 2017 first round

Current team: Blackhawks

Current stats: 12 assists, 53.6 CF%, 38.8 dZS% in 36 GP

Size: 6-foot, 193 pounds

Contract: 3 years, $925K (RFA 2021)

Last T25U25 ranking: No. 2. Up 1 spot.

Jokiharju made the Blackhawks’ opening night roster at the start of the season, and is playing top-four minutes on the blue line while driving possession. The Blackhawks decided to send him to the World Junior Championship tournament in Canada, and he capitalized on the opportunity by scoring two goals and assisting on three others to help Finland win gold. He even picked up an assist on Kaapo Kakko’s golden goal. Jokiharju’s first goal of the tournament marked his first goal since April 12, 2018, in a WHL playoff game for the Portland Winterhawks. He still has yet to score his first career NHL goal.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton has started to use Jokiharju on his off side as of late. The defenseman has shown some growing pains with the shift, but he’s only 19 years old and time to get use to playing on the left side.

The Blackhawks have loaded up on defensemen the past few years in the draft, and Jokiharju looks to be the first of many to have made a name for himself in the NHL. There’s still plenty of time to develop and improve his overall game.

No. 1 — Alex DeBrincat

Position: Winger

Birth date: Dec. 18, 1997 (21)

Acquired via: 2016 second round

Current team: Blackhawks

Current stats: 39 points (24G, 15A), 51.1 CF% in 49 GP

Size: 5’7”, 165 pounds

Contract: 2 years, $778,333 (RFA in 2020)

Last T25U25 ranking: No. 2. Up 1 spot.

DeBrincat has proven to be effective in any role he’s put in this season in the top-six during his second NHL season. Whether it’s with Dominik Kahun, Patrick Kane or his friend Strome, DeBrincat has shown he’s a utility player on the roster and creates great chemistry with a range of linemates.

One thing to watch going forward is if DeBrincat can continue to shake the notion that he’s a streaky scorer. He had 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in his first 10 games then went cold with nine points (three goals, six assists) in his next 20 outings while the team slipped deeper and deeper in the standings. But in his last 10 games of 2018, he pieced together another scoring surge with 11 points (three goals, six assists). After being held without a point in the first two games of the year, DeBrincat has scored six goals in his last six games for 17 points (nine goals, six assists) in his last 18 outings.

DeBrincat should be playing in a top-six role going forward to maximize the team’s second-best goal scorer potential on the ice.