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2022 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Last year’s list and the elephant in the room

A quick history lesson and an acknowledgment of the biggest issue in the present.

Chicago Blackhawks v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Two Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

This week will be the start of Second City Hockey’s annual Top 25 Under 25 rankings, our annual look into the players who represent some of the present and the majority of the future for the Chicago Blackhawks.

A hectic couple of months have brought an onslaught of changes to this list, as an exodus of players from the 2021 list coincided with a boatload of new players and prospects arriving.

Before we get to the most glaring aspect of Chicago’s current prospect situation, let’s revisit the 2021 T25U25 list with the graduated/departed players identified:

2021 SCH Top 25 Under 25 Rankings

  1. LW Alex DeBrincat Duh.
  2. F Kirby Dach Traded to the Montreal Canadiens.
  3. F Dylan Strome Departed via free agency.
  4. F Philipp Kurashev
  5. F Lukas Reichel
  6. F Brandon Hagel Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning
  7. D Ian Mitchell
  8. D Wyatt Kalynuk Departed via free agency.
  9. D Nicolas Beaudin
  10. G Drew Commesso
  11. F Henrik Borgstrom Departed via free agency.
  12. D Riley Stillman
  13. D Alex Vlasic
  14. F Alexander Nylander Traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  15. G Arvid Soderblom
  16. F MacKenzie Entwistle
  17. D Wyatt Kaiser
  18. D Alec Regula
  19. F Evan Barratt
  20. F Landon Slaggert
  21. D Isaak Phillips
  22. D Nolan Allan
  23. F Artur Kayumov
  24. F Adam Gaudette Claimed off waivers by the Ottawa Senators.
  25. F Mike Hardman

The top three players are gone and half of the top 14 players under the age of 25 who were with the organization on Aug. 1 of last year are now plying their trade elsewhere. It should be noted that Strome, Kalynuk and Gaudette would’ve been ineligible for this year’s rankings anyway due to their age, but it helps illustrate the seismic shifts to the organization made in the last year.

After the 2021 T25U25 rankings were revealed last year, we also presented a different way to look at the hierarchy of Chicago’s younger players with a Prospect Pyramid, which is presented below:

And here’s where we arrive at the elephant in the room.

The six tiers represented above were:

  • Tier 1 — Potential franchise player
  • Tier 2 — Potential top-six forward, top-pairing defenseman, No. 1 goalie
  • Tier 3 — Potential middle-six forward, middle-pairing defenseman, fringe starting/backup goalie with higher ceilings
  • Tier 4 — Potential middle-six forward, middle-pairing defenseman, fringe starting/backup goalie with lower ceilings
  • Tier 5 — Potential bottom-six forward, bottom-pairing defenseman
  • Tier 6 — Fringe AHL/NHL player

Now, the Dach and DeBrincat trades obviously factor in here, and an argument remains that the Blackhawks traded at least one player (DeBrincat) who may have been in that top tier and did not receive one in return. Dach’s trade probably was probably more of a lateral move in terms of where those players rank in this pyramid. But each of those decisions have been made and the past is for cowards.

So, for a team that is in the early stages of virtually starting over, the Blackhawks do not have a prospect that could be considered a potential franchise player. Even the trio of first-round picks from the 2022 NHL Draft would fall just shy of that top tier in the present, although they could certainly work their way into it in the future. The one piece of good news from those Dach/DeBrincat trades is that those two players were turned into five pieces (all draft picks), which gives the Blackhawks slightly better odds that one of those prospects becomes a player worthy of the top tier.

But that overall point should reinforce why general manager Kyle Davidson decided to torpedo the roster in the last 4-5 months (aka, tanking). For a team looking to the long-term, it needs a few foundational pieces upon which to build this new structure of a hockey team — essentially, its next Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. While the execution of said plan will remain up for debate, the idea behind it has plenty of merit.