Second City Hockey’s 2021-22 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2021. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. 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.
Mike Hardman’s time with the Chicago Blackhawks organization has been limited, but he appears to have made a solid impression — at least enough of one to earn a two-year contract extension after appearing in just eight games in Chicago after signing with the team out of Boston College.
Hardman had two years of eligibility left at BC but opted for an NHL shot after his sophomore season. He was rewarded with a contract offer from the Blackhawks and his first career NHL goal in his fifth career game during a 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
That goal could serve as the prototype for how Hardman can carve out a spot with the Blackhawks: crashing the net for scoring opportunities while displaying hands that are skilled enough to corral rebounds and turn them into goals.
Also, from that extremely limited sample, Hardman displayed a fondness for the physical side of the game that could be another key part of his game as a fourth-liner. Hardman was credited with 38 hits in those 8 games, but the overall quantity isn’t the number we’re concerned about here because of the limited sample size: it’s the hit rate. Among Blackhawks forwards, Hardman averaged 26.4 hits per 60 minutes, which was the second highest mark on the team. If Hardman arrives in training camp as a player willing to throw his large frame around — and uses it in an efficient manner — then he could emerge from the pack of players vying for a fourth-line spot in Chicago this season.
As mentioned above, there are a slew of players in Chicago who appear to be candidates for the three fourth-line roles with the Blackhawks this season. Hardman is certainly among them, although it wouldn’t be a total shock to see him split time between the AHL and the NHL next season as the battles for those positions are sorted.
All advanced statistics from Natural Stat Trick