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.
It is the nature of professional sports that opportunities can arise at just about any time. It can even happen during, let’s say ... a pandemic that’s affected life in virtually every corner of the world.
For Blackhawks prospect Isaak Phillips, an opportunity was presented to him when the effects of the coronavirus pandemic led to a cancelation of the 2020-21 OHL season, preventing him from playing any games with the Sudbury Wolves. A special exemption, however, allowed Phillips and other OHLers to play in the AHL.
Phillips seized that opportunity, playing well enough with the IceHogs to receive a contract offer from the Blackhawks on the final day of March, becoming the first player from Chicago’s 2020 draft class to join the organization in that official capacity.
While much of the rave reviews around Phillips’ performance in Rockford was around his defensive play, Phillips also flashed his offensive skills, as he did in his first professional goal. Keep an eye on No. 41 here:
There were plenty of plaudits for Phillips initial foray into pro hockey, which ended with Phillips being named the IceHogs Rookie of the Year. In one year, Phillips went from an unheralded fifth-round pick to a player still in his teenage years with an NHL contract in his back pocket and a substantial increase to his projected ceiling.
Of course, Chicago has a host of blue-line prospects and there’s plenty of room for improvement before Phillips will receive NHL consideration. But given his progress since being drafted in 2020, his arrow is pointed skyward.
Where Phillips plays next season could depend on negotiations between the CHL and NHL, which could allow players like Phillips to remain at the AHL level despite still being eligible for their junior league teams. TSN’s Darren Dreger and AHL reporter Patrick Williams detailed these negotiations in the tweets below from late July:
Here is a list of potential CHL players who could be eligible to play in the AHL this coming season.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsAHL) July 22, 2021
Even beyond the four first-round picks, it is an impressive list. All of these players more than held their own in the AHL this past season.https://t.co/V9Ud486TgK#AHL pic.twitter.com/RQoxD7qqbt