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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Alexis Gravel leads honorable mentions

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Forwards Victor Ejdsell, Jake Wise and Reese Johnson and defenseman Jakub Galvas are also in the group.

NHL Prospects Tournament Day-2 Toronto vs Chicago

Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 series is back for a midseason ranking during the bye week for the Blackhawks. Before the list is revealed each day, we’ll look at the first five players who were on the outside looking in: forward Victor Ejdsell, defenseman Jakub Galvas, centers Jake Wise and Reese Johnson and goaltender Alexis Gravel.

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

No. 30 — Victor Ejdsell

Position: C/LW
Birth date: June 6, 1995 (Age 24)
Acquired via: 2018 trade with Predators
Team: Farjestad BK (SHL)
Stats: 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 34 games
Size: 6-foot-5, 214 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked

Ejdsell has found success back in his native Sweden after leaving Rockford. He’s tied for a league-best 14 goals in the NHL and has nine assists in 34 games. The Blackhawks extended him a qualifying offer this past summer to retain his rights, however, it’s unlikely he’ll return to North America to play in the AHL again.

No. 29 — Jakub Galvas

Position: Left-handed defenseman
Birth date: June 15, 1999 (Age 20)
Acquired via: 2017 NHL draft, fifth round (150th)
Team: Jukurit (Liiga)
Stats: 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists) in 33 games
Size: 5-foot-11, 165 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 25 (Matt); Unranked (Others)
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked

Galvas made the transition from Czech Extraliga to Finland’s Liiga seem pretty smooth at the start of the season with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his first 10 games while averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time. But then his offensive production began to slide with seven points in 19 minutes his past 23 games. He did sustained an undisclosed injury during training in late December that will keep him out of action for all of January and possibility some time in early February.

No. 28 — Jake Wise

Position: Center
Birth date: Feb. 28, 2000 (Age 19)
Acquired via: 2018 draft, third round (69th)
Team: Boston University (NCAA)
Stats: 6 points (1 goal, five assists), 48.8 percent on faceoffs in 23 games
Size: 5-foot-10, 190 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 24 (Matt); Unranked (Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 15

Wise, who was once heralded as the steal of the 2018 draft, has been hit with injury after injury but he’s finally healthy in his sophomore season at Boston. He’s primarily played as the Terriers’ second-line center with a variety of linemates. His offensive production hasn’t been where many expected compared to how his teammates are doing.

Wise discussed his first NCAA goal and how he’s feeling about this season on the latest “Inside BU Hockey” podcast.

“A long time coming,” Wise said with a laugh of his goal. “It took awhile, but now that the first one is out of the way [I’ll] definitely be looking for more. It was exciting. It was good to get that out of the way and maybe score a couple bigger ones down the road.”

Wise also explained how dealt with the adversity of having injuries in back-to-back seasons.

“It’s been a lot,” he said. “I think what helped me a lot is I broke my collarbone the year before at the [United States National Development Program] and I knew how to deal with the injury. This one was much longer, a six-month injury and had to spend a lot time out and in the gym. I feel like no matter what you do when you’re hurt it’s always a little harder when you come back to playing in a real game, there’s nothing that can prepare you for a real game aside from playing. It was tough to come back a little bit, but I’m finding my stride here.

“I only played 12 games in college last year and was just getting use to the college speed and all of a sudden I’m out. It’s almost like another freshman year this year and [I’m] kind of getting use to [the speed again]. The year isn’t over and [I’m] starting to hit my stride, so I’m really excited.”

No. 27 — Reese Johnson

Position: Center
Birth date: July 10, 1998 (Age 21)
Acquired via: Free agency
Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Stats: 8 points (four goals, four assists) in 40 games
Size: 6-foot-1, 192 pounds
Contract: 3 years, $880,833 AAV
Rankings: 20 (Shepard); Unranked (Others)
Last T25U25 ranking: 29

Johnson is in his first professional season in the AHL after scoring 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) in 67 games with Red Deer in the WHL. The center has played a fourth-line role where he’s relied on to play a defensive role, but he’s struggled to stay out of the penalty box with 52 penalty minutes that are tied with defenseman Ian McCoshen, who was acquired from Florida earlier this season.

No. 26 — Alexis Gravel

Position: Goaltender
Birth date: March 21, 2000 (Age 19)
Acquired via: 2018 draft, sixth round (162nd)
Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Stats: 11-16, 3.81 goals-against average, .893 save percentage, one shutout in 29 games
Size: 6-foot-3, 219 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 21 (Dave); Unranked (Brandon, Matt)
Last T25U25 ranking: 20

Gravel, who was one of the QMJHL’s best goalies last season, has struggled at times in front of a younger Halifax team this season. He missed nearly a month earlier this season due to the terrarium in his bedroom breaking and a shard of glass slicing six centimeters deep into his foot. He made 24 saves for Team QMJHL in a 4-3 loss to Team Russia on Nov. 4 in the Canada-Russia Series and wasn’t invited to Canada’s World Junior Selection camp after he looked to be a lock for the team in the summer.

There’s definitely upside to Gravel, but with a deep goalie pool and Matt Tomkins signing an NHL contract it’s unclear if the Blackhawks will sign the German-born goalie after this season.