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2021 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Nolan Allan debuts at 22

The 2021 first-round pick makes his makes his first appearance on the list.

Keith Hershmiller/WHL

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.

Despite being considered a reach as a first-round pick by many pundits, Nolan Allan is an intriguing defensive prospect because he is a physical, defense-first player with excellent skating skills — a combination the Blackhawks don’t have a lot of in their prospect pool — and he has definitive top-four potential. His season with the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL was a good foundation, especially in terms of defensive play and shutdown ability, but it was his performance with Team Canada at the Under-18 World Juniors that really turned heads.

In that tournament, Allan continued to be strong defensively and was great at balancing his offensive partner, but he also showed a level of play-driving beyond defensive zone exits that was lacking in the WHL. His puck-handling skills in transition were still lacking, as his turnover rate was the worst among Canadian defenders. However, his rise in effective play-driving beyond strong defensive-zone exit success was highly promising. Defenders do not need to be offensive to be effective in the NHL, but the ability to contribute to driving the play can be the difference between bottom and second-pair ceiling. Check out my analysis from July of Allan’s performance in both the WHL and at the WJC from July for more of a deep-dive into what could be expected of him as a player.

As an interesting note, Allan’s debut on this list is lower than other recent notable drafted defensemen: Nicolas Beaudin (27th overall, 2018) and Henri Jokiharju (29th overall, 2017) both debuted on this list in the top-10 while second-rounders Alex Vlasic (43rd overall, 2019) and Ian Mitchell (57th, 2017) came in at No. 13 and 15, respectively, after their draft years.

This is mostly because Allan’s draft year sample size is small compared to those listed above thanks to the WHL’s COVID-shortened season, and due to the Blackhawks currently having a surplus of players under 25 in the organization (they have 19 defenseman alone). Allan’s lack of refined puck skills compared to the four prospects listed above is a concern, but he’d have likely been ranked higher if we’d been able to see more of him — and during a less crowded year.

So, while this ranking may seem low for a kid with solid potential to be an impact middle-pairing skater, it’s mostly due to things outside his control as a player, and it definitely wouldn’t be surprising to see him ranked higher next year.

What’s next

Allan will return to the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL, which has a start date of Oct. 1, 2021. He’s expected to play top-pair minutes and possibly be a part of the leadership group for the team. Blackhakws fans will need to be patient with Allan because he is a project and he’s still two or three years away from making the transition to professional hockey.