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.
Nicolas Beaudin slipped down the list because the 2021 season, if anything, proved he likely wasn’t ready for the NHL full time and needs some more developmental minutes in the AHL. At the same time, though, Beaudin was excellent during his brief AHL time, finishing at a pace just over a point-per-game pace with two goals and eight assists in nine games — a rare scoring clip for a defenseman.
Beaudin also proved he’s someone who won’t be devoid of offense at the NHL level, although his possession numbers and his on-ice impact left room to be desired. However, that first-round potential remains in Beaudin’s game. And there’s still time for Beaudin to figure out the NHL in the coming years, as he turns 22 next month and has played in just 20 NHL games so far in his young career. After all, Beaudin is still younger than Duncan Keith was when Keith transitioned to the NHL — and Keith had plenty of struggles during his first few seasons, too.
The charts below show how much Beaudin’s numbers lagged in several possession based statistics, including expected goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60), shot attempts for per 60 (CF/60), expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) and shot attempts against per 60 (CA/60). Beaudin had a limited sample of power-play ice time in 2021 — just 23:15 overall — and the chart on the right doesn’t offer much optimism from that limited sample, either.
Beaudin is still somebody who can be good in his own end and again, did provide some offensive spark during the 2021 season. At the NHL level, though, that offensive output came with a team-wide shooting percentage of 28.57 while Beaudin was on the ice, which is extremely high and a number that will come down significantly over the remainder of his career.
Even if he starts the 2021-22 season in the AHL, Beaudin will likely get NHL games next season as injuries are more likely to set in over an 82-game season, and he’ll need to do better with them than he did with his games in 2021. Beaudin has already proven to be worthy first-pairing minutes at the AHL level. But further development there could help Beaudin make the transition to the NHL level.
Defensemen peak a little later than forwards, so Beaudin still has time. But if he continues to struggle at the top level, he’ll continue to slide down an organizational depth chart which already has plenty of defenseman on it.