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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Alex DeBrincat remains No. 1; Dominik Kubalik rises to No. 5

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Kubalik jumps up six spots from the preseason rankings.

Nashville Predators v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

With the fifth and final installment of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 series, we move on to the Nos. 1-5 group, which now includes Calder Trophy candidate Dominik Kubalik.

No. 5 — Dominik Kubalik

Position: LW
Birth date: Aug. 21, 1995 (Age 24)
Acquired via: Trade with Kings
Team: Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 32 points (21 goals, 11 assists)
Size: 6-foot-2, 179 pounds
Contract: 1 year, $925,000 (RFA)
Rankings: 2 (Shepard); 5 (Brandon, Dave, Matt)
Last T25U25 ranking: 11. Up 6 spots.
Dobber Prospects’ NHL point projection model:

Kubalik’s PNHLe graph
Dobber Prospects

Kubalik’s rookie season has been one of the most encouraging storylines this season. He started out with two goals, one assist and 25 shots in his first six games playing with David Kampf and Brandon Saad. The trio looked like an unstoppable force at times, but head coach Jeremy Colliton decided to juggle the lines looking for a spark during a rough patch for Chicago. Kubalik bounced around and struggled with consistency until he was given a chance to play with Jonathan Toews midway through December.

Toews and Kubalik’s skillsets linked up nicely and both player’s offensive production increased. Kubalik has 19 points (13 goals, 6 assists), including three game winners, 44 shots, a 51.8-percent Corsi-For and has averaged 15:07 minutes of ice time since Dec. 19.

Kubalik likes to hang around the high-danger area looking for tips, rebounds and passes from Toews to whack toward the net. The duo will play a substantial role in the Blackhawks’ potential playoff push and if Kubalik can crack the 30-goal plateau, he certainly has a case to earn votes in the Calder Trophy race against Adam Fox, Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes.

No. 4 — Kirby Dach

Position: C/RW
Birth date: Jan. 21, 2001 (Age 19)
Acquired via: 2019 NHL draft - first round (No. 3 overall)
Team: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists)
Size: 6-foot-4, 198 pounds
Contract: 3 years, $925,000 (RFA)
Rankings: 2 (Matt); 5 (Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 3. Down 1 spot.
Dobber Prospects’ NHL point projection model:

Dach’s PNHLe graph
Dobber Prospects

Patrick Kane said earlier in the season Dach is going to be a special player. After four months, Dach certainly looks like Toews’ successor.

Obviously, the production hasn’t been there the past 30 games, but that will come with time. Here are a few things that have been exciting about Dach’s development:

  • He isn’t afraid of the inevitable physicality from opponent’s bigger and stronger than him when he’s chasing a puck in the offensive zone or below the goal line. Dach welcomes the contact and uses his lower body to swivel out of precarious situations, often with the puck on his stick.
  • When he catches a puck in stride, especially in the neutral zone and during defensive zone breakouts, he’s able to speed past defensemen, protect the puck and create scoring opportunities.
  • His defensive zone positioning has improved, which has led to increased in ice time. Dach is averaging 16:37 minutes per game in his past 12 games compared to 12:31 in his first 33 games.

No. 3 — Adam Boqvist

Position: Right-handed defenseman
Birth date: Aug. 15, 2000 (Age 19)
Acquired via: 2018 NHL draft - first round (No. 8)
Team: Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists), 47.0% Corsi-For
Size: 5-foot-11, 168 pounds
Contract: Three years, $894,167 (RFA)
Rankings: 3 (Brandon, Dave, Matt); 4 (Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 2. Down 1 spot.

Injuries to Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan have forced Chicago to speed up Boqvist’s developmental curve, but Boqvist’s solid performance during the past five weeks has showed he belongs in the NHL.

Boqvist has taken over Erik Gustafsson’s quarterback position on the first power play unit, has averaged 17:23 minutes of ice time per game and continues to optimize his defensive positioning and technique. Boqvist is a future top four defenseman and will continue to push his ceiling upward as he puts on more muscle mass and learns from veteran Duncan Keith.

No. 2 — Dylan Strome

Position: C/RW
Birth date: Mar. 7, 1997 (Age 22)
Acquired via: Trade with Coyotes
Team: Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists)
Size: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
Contract: 1 year, $863,333 (RFA)
Rankings: 1 (Shepard); 4 (Matt)
Last T25U25 ranking: 4. Up 2 spots.

Strome has been incredibly consistent since joining the Blackhawks in November 2018. In 58 games this past season, he had 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) for a 0.88 points per game average. In 40 games this season, Strome has averaged 0.75 points per game and has 15 assists at even strength.

He’s not the fastest skater, but his strategic positioning and 6-foot-3 frame allows him to create space from defenders and connect on tape-to-tape passes to Alex DeBrincat or Patrick Kane more often than not. Strome has excellent playmaking ability and getting him back in the lineup when he fully recovers from a right ankle injury will give Chicago’s top nine, DeBrincat and the power play a boost.

No. 1 — Alex DeBrincat

Position: LW
Birth date: Dec. 18, 1997 (Age 22)
Acquired via: 2016 NHL draft - second round (No. 39)
Team: Blackhawks (NHL)
Stats: 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists)
Size: 5-foot-7, 165 pounds
Contract: 1 year left on $778,333 ELC; 3 years, $6.4 million starts in 2020-21 season
Rankings: 1 (Brandon, Dave, Matt); 3 (Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: 1. No change.

DeBrincat’s goal scoring is down with only 12 goals through 51 games, which puts on him on pace to finish the season with 20 goals. However, he is still collecting enough assists to keep him on a nice 0.69 points per game production rate.

His goal scoring struggles are confusing, since he is averaging 2.80 shots per game and is second on the team with 102 scoring chances at five-on-five. It seems like the puck bounces off his stick on one-timer opportunities that he usually would score on or goalies make a high quality save.

Here’s a look at all the shots DeBrincat has attempted this season, per Charting Hockey:

DeBrincat’s shot attempt map
Charting Hockey - Sean Tierney

It’s hard to believe DeBrincat’s shooting percentage can stay this low at 8.4-percent after owning a 17.1 shooting-percentage in his first two seasons. At some point the puck is going to start bouncing his way and he will go on a goal scoring streak.