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 has become a trend for NCAA players to head back to school to get their college experience this season, having had that opportunity taken away due to the pandemic. That’s a trend being followed by three of the top five picks from the 2021 Draft — Owen Power, Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson — all going back to University of Michigan. That same trend is being followed by Landon Slaggert, who will head back to the University of Notre Dame.
That’s even after Slaggert had a hell of a freshman season, heading to the NCAA tournament (even if, ultimately, the Fighting Irish couldn’t participate) and helping Team USA win the World Junior Classic in 2020. That lack of Frozen Four participation may be one of the reasons Slaggert heads back to the NCAA, however.
The Blackhawks drafted Slaggert in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft, after Slaggert put up 24 points in 47 games with the US National Team Development Program, as well as 10 points in 19 games in the USHL in his draft year. Those aren’t awful numbers, but his freshman season in the NCAA was likely a bigger surprise because those numbers aren’t great, either.
Slaggert was nearly a point-per-game player in the NCAA this past season, scoring 22 points in 25 games — 14 of those assists. After a season where most of his points were goals — 19 of 34 — that playmaking development is a pleasant surprise. It’s also perhaps a result of more talented teammates in Notre Dame, as well as an increased playing opportunity.
Notre Dame didn’t have many players finish ahead of Slaggert in points: just Alex Steeves (a Junior who signed with the Maple Leafs) and Slaggert’s older brother Graham, another Junior who saw an explosion in points with his brother on the team (going from 10 points to 25).
Slaggert is a power forward who drives to the crease, works the boards and is not afraid of throwing a few hits, yet he’s also clearly capable of generating enough offense to assist teams in that way and even though he’s physical, he’s a clean physical. Slaggert had just 14 penalty minutes in his freshman season and 46 penalty minutes in 66 combined games in his draft year.
He is a good skater and will outwork opponents — that sounds like a very capable NHL third liner, which is likely where Slaggert’s ceiling is. But another season with Notre Dame improving upon his freshman season and that ceiling could continue to rise.
Slaggert should sign an NHL contract soon. Still, should Slaggert sign after playing all four of his NCAA years, he will likely be somebody who can make an impact in the lineup from a depth scoring role eventually.