2022 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Nicolas Beaudin drops to 24

The left-handed blueliner dropped out of the top 10 and to No. 24 in 2022

Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. 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.

After finishing in the top 10 in 2021’s Top 25 Under 25 rankings, Nicolas Beaudin dropped 15 spots — all the way to 24th. It’s not because Beaudin was outwardly bad for the Blackhawks last season, it’s more because he spent the majority of his ‘21-22 campaign playing in Rockford.

Still, that seemed to be a bit of a step back for Beaudin, who had a cup of coffee for the Hawks in 2021, playing 19 NHL games. And while the 22-year-old defenseman has shown potential, he didn’t display much of anything noteworthy last year. In fact, Rockford elected to sit him as a healthy scratch in four of their five Calder Cup Playoffs games.

Although Beaudin did not appear on the scoresheet in his two NHL games last season, he did showed a small sample size of his skill-set in his 19-game run with the Blackhawks in 2021.

What went wrong for Beaudin?

The coaching regime transitions of the last year makes this a bit of a loaded question. Beaudin has shown some skill, particularly when it comes to the offensive side of things. He is clearly mobile — which is absolutely necessary to compete in today’s NHL — and while his speed doesn’t jump right off the ice, he has better legs and general awareness than many of his peers. And while his shortcomings are easy to blame on his youth, it doesn’t tell the entire tale.

Even if he doesn’t have “generational talent” stamped across his draft card, Beaudin has shown great decision-making in all three zones. Through good awareness and crisp tape-to-tape passes, he can be a useful piece to have in the lineup. The lefty D-man has solid hands and can provide a bit of an offensive spark. What he lacks in his game is coachable but he needs to have more consistency in every department mentioned in this paragraph. For a young blue-liner, understanding the system, having a regular partner and getting favorable matchups/zone starts are crucial to development.

However, the puck-possession struggles that the Blackhawks had at the NHL level were often mirrored by the IceHogs in the AHL, as Rockford consistently leaned heavily on its goalies to bail them out — and Beaudin seemed to be a part of those overall struggles. He had regular reps in Rockford with 68 games and finished with a serviceable 16 points (2 G, 14 A), including 5 points (1 G, 4 A) in the final 11 games. But the overall production wasn’t anything to write home about. Truthfully, considering that subpar season, the potential and talent that Beaudin has displayed in the past are the primary things keeping him on this list. He needs to find a path to consistency and show a little bit more of what he can do if he wants to spend time in the NHL next season — and there aren’t many open blue-line spots in Chicago following the latest team signing.

What’s next?

Beaudin is a skilled blue-liner who is signed through the upcoming 2022-23 season. After being drafted late in the first round, Beaudin has dealt with the misfortunes of being juggled around between teams, systems and coaches — a lack of organizational consistency that can make development tougher on a young player. While defenseman typically take a bit longer than forwards to develop, Beaudin’s future in Chicago will likely be determined by his performance this season. Now that it’s been four years since he was drafted, time is no longer on Beaudin’s side, either. With a new regime in charge, that high draft number is nothing but an illusion of safety.