Second City Hockey’s 2020-21 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2020. The rankings are determined by a composite score from three SCH writers and community member, L_B_R. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
The first five spots in SCH’s 2020-21 Top 25 rankings were unveiled the past week, so now it’s time to do a roundtable reaction with the staff’s thoughts on how the bottom of the list shaped up.
Too high: Niklas Nordgren (unranked)
Too low: John Quenneville (No. 22 on my list)
Nordgren has struggled to stay fit and only played in 11 Liiga games this past season with four of them (Jan. 22, 29 and Feb. 1, 12) this year after our last ranking. It’s difficult to rank a player when they don’t play. He has offensive upside and his draft-plus 3 season could be big for his development if he can stay on the ice.
Quenneville is a proven scorer at the AHL level and would’ve put up better overall numbers if his season didn’t get off to a slow start due to injuries. His 13 goals and 22 points ranked fourth and sixth on the team, respectively, in only 36 games. He shouldn’t have been on the top line in the NHL like he was, but he can be a suitable depth call up option. At 24 years old, he likely is what he is at this point in his career. There are other forwards in the AHL ranked higher on the list that people will want to see though and they might get their chance over Quenneville.
Too high: N/A
Too low: John Quenneville (No. 23 on my list)
Full disclosure here: I always struggle mightily ranking 21-25 every time we do the T25U25 rankings. Once we drift into the late teens, it’s always difficult to find legitimate reasons why Prospect A is better than Prospect B because it’s typically an equal combination of a player without much high-end potential who hasn’t (and probably won’t) reach the NHL level. Quenneville seems like the career AHL type to me, but I suppose some credit has to be given for him reaching the NHL level at some point in his career, which is why I had him a touch higher than 25.
Outside of that, it’s hard for me to take much issue with where these players ended up. After No. 17 or 18 it’s typically a mixed bag of players under 25 who likely aren’t going to be vital to the Blackhawks success or failure in the upcoming seasons.
Too high: Drew Commesso (unranked)
Too low: Niklas Nordgren (No. 20 on my list)
It’s hard to trust Stan Bowman’s draft history when it comes to goaltenders (although I’ve made that mistake before, Alexis Gravel was ranked No. 24 on my last list). Of the 10 netminders Chicago has drafted since 2010, just one is signed (Matt Tomkins) and just one (Kent Simpson) played a game in the NHL. The last time the Blackhawks drafted a goalie that made an NHL impact was 17 years ago (and they let that guy go this year).
I don’t believe Commesso is the one to break the streak. There were arguably two better goalie prospects available (Joel Blomqvist and Calle Clang both went to Pittsburgh) when Commesso was selected.
The only real knock against Nordgren are injuries. If he’s able to stay on the ice I believe he can live up to his high offensive potential. He has a higher ceiling than many of the others in the 21-25 range and as a right wing would fit an organizational need if he were able to stay healthy long term.