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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: MacKenzie Entwistle delivers in his first pro season

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One of Rockford’s youngest forwards is in our first group of prospects rankings.

MacKenzie Entwistle
Todd Reicher/Rockford IceHogs

The first installment of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 series focusing on Nos. 21 to 25. This group features one defenseman and four forwards, including one player who’s become a somewhat regular fixture in the Blackhawks’ lineup.

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

No. 25 — Andrei Altybarmakyan

Position: Forward
Birth date: Aug. 4, 1998 (21)
Acquired via: 2017 NHL Draft - third round (70th overall)
Team: HK Sochi (KHL)
Stats: 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 39 games
Size: 5’11, 183 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 21 (Shepard); Unranked (Brandon, Matt)
Last T25U25 ranking: 21. Down 3 spots.

After not getting much ice time while playing with SKA Petersburg early last season, Altybarmakyan is seeing an expanded role since being traded to HK Sochi during the 2018-19 season. In a brief playoff stint with Sochi, he tallied three points in five games. This season, the young forward is up to 14 points in 39 games while routinely skating over 15 minutes in each game.

No. 24 — Chad Krys

Position: Left-handed defenseman
Birth date: April 10, 1998 (21)
Acquired via: 2016 NHL Draft - Second-round (45th overall)
Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Stats: 6 points (2 G, 4 A) in 34 games
Size: 5’11, 185 pounds
Contract: 3 years, $853,333 (entry-level)
Rankings: 20 (Brandon); Unranked (Dave, Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 21. Down 3 spots.

The former second-round pick has been lost in the shuffle behind some of Chicago’s other top prospects on the blue line, but Krys signed with the organization last March and made his professional debut in the spring, foregoing his senior season at Boston Univ.

Krys has offensive flair; just look at this play from last season, in the earliest stages of his professional career:

But Krys faces an uphill battle to gain the attention of the Blackhawks front office, considering there are former first-round picks like Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin competing for more permanent slots within the organization. And considering Krys is already 21 years old, he’ll likely need to make an impact soon if he hopes for a shot at the NHL level within this organization.

No. 23 — Matthew Highmore

Position: Forward
Birth date: Feb. 27, 1996 (23)
Acquired via: Free agency
Team: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 3 points (1 G, 2 A) in 21 NHL games; 12 points (4 G, 8 A) in 21 AHL games
Size: 5’11, 188 pounds
Contract: 1 year, $775,833 (RFA)
Rankings: 19 (Brandon); Unranked (Dave, Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 23. No change.

Highmore has become a regular member of the Chicago lineup over the last month, sitting out just one of the Blackhawks’ last 20 games. What may be more interesting, concerning Highmore’s future, is this recent reply from coach Jeremy Colliton about the team’s younger players:

Highmore’s ceiling is likely in the bottom six, which is fine: the Blackhawks picked up Highmore as an undrafted free agent and any worthwhile contributions from UDFAs should be considered bonus points. Highmore does have the speed to be a reliable contributor on the forecheck, something that could continue to earn him ice time under Colliton’s watch.

No. 22 — Antti Saarela

Position: Forward
Birth date: June 27, 2001 (18)
Acquired via: 2019 NHL Draft - fourth round (123rd overall)
Team: Ilves (Liiga)
Stats: 11 points (4 G, 7 A) in 27 games
Size: 5’11, 183 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 22 (Brandon, Dave, Shepard); 23 (Matt)
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked.

Saarela had an uneventful stint with Finland during the World Juniors in December/January. In seven games, he did not register a point while splitting time on the first and third lines. He registered nine shots on goal and was 49.3 percent on faceoffs (39-for-79) as Finland lost in the bronze medal game to Sweden.

Outside of that tournament, Saarela has been playing in the top league in his native Finland, posting four goals and seven assists in 27 games with Ilves.

No. 21 — MacKenzie Entwistle

Position: Forward
Birth date: July 14, 1999 (20)
Acquired via: Trade with Coyotes (July 2018)
Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Stats: 19 points (9 G, 10 A) in 39 games
Size: 6-foot-3, 184 pounds
Contract: 3 years, $811,667 (entry-level)
Rankings: 19 (Dave); 25 (Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 16. Down 5 spots.

Entwistle ranks fourth in points on the IceHogs, a solid professional debut for the former third-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes. Just a few months into rookie season, Entwistle was already earning rave reviews from coach Derek King.

Throughout the season, Entwistle has seen top-line minutes with the IceHogs, including brief stints on the top PK unit when some of Rockford’s top special teams contributors were called up to the Blackhawks. It’s been a solid professional debut for the 20-year-old forward, and a continued upward trajectory could result in Entwistle breaking the NHL lineup within the next few seasons.