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.
Seeing that Evan Barratt feel eight spots from his ranking in the prior offseason may be a suggestion to some that he did not fare well in his first professional season.
That’s not really what happened, though.
In fact, Barratt was one of the players mentioned by Rockford coach Derek King as one of the standouts from the IceHogs abbreviated 2021 season:
Isaak Phillips, Alec Regula, Evan Barratt and D.J. Busdecker are among the #IceHogs who stuck out the most to King this season.— Greg Boysen (@GregBoysen) May 17, 2021
After a point-per-game junior season with Penn State in ‘19-20, Barratt signed with the Hawks and spent the entire 2021 hockey season in the AHL. He did earn a brief call-up to the taxi squad towards the end of the NHL season but a logistical issue is what kept him from making his NHL debut:
That Barratt was on the verge of an NHL call-up suggests he still very much figures into the team’s future plans. He was the No. 3 leading scorer in Rockford with 14 points in 27 games. He also saw ample power-play time, notching three assists with the man advantage.
Here are a few Barratt (he’s No. 26) highlights from the season. First, a display of quick hands that resulted in a goal from the low slot:
And here’s Barratt overpowering a goalie with a slapper from the top of the left circle:
But Barratt’s dropping in the rankings is less of an indictment on him and more about other youths in the system made noise at the NHL level: players like Brandon Hagel, Wyatt Kalynuk and MacKenzie Entwistle. There were also some new additions with NHL games under their belt in Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom. Sure, Barratt would’ve helped his cause even more by grasping an NHL spot out of training camp. But given the plethora of middle/bottom-six forwards the Blackhawks had at the start of the last season, it wasn’t all that surprising to see a player with zero NHL experience end up in the AHL.
The biggest question for Barratt will be where he fits into the lineup if he proves worthy of one at the NHL level. Much of that hinges on the health of Jonathan Toews, who is expected to return this season but his status is still not certain. If Toews plays, the top two center spots are likely occupied by he and Dach, leaving a slew of players vying for the other two jobs: Borgstrom, Adam Gaudette, Jujhar Khaira, Tyler Johnson, Dylan Strome and more. If Toews isn’t around — at least for the start of the season — it could open up an opportunity for Barratt down the lineup with another player moving up to fill Toews’ vacancy.
Regardless of how it starts, this does feel like a pivotal season in Barratt’s career. He’ll turn 23 next February, which places him on the high side of the age bracket for Blackhawks prospects. And if he doesn’t earn a call-up to the NHL soon, it feels like he could start getting passed up by others on the organizational depth chart. It’s also worth noting that Landon Slaggert — a 2020 draft pick who turned 19 in June — has a similar skill set to Barratt. So if Barratt’s future is going to be in Chicago, that future probably needs to begin during the ‘21-22 season.