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2022 Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25: Honorable mentions

A trio of forwards just missed the cut.

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St Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2022 version of Second City Hockey’s Top 25 Under 25 ranking series opens with a trio of forwards who were included on ballots but did not earn enough voting points to make the 25-man list. The voters for this year’s installment consisted of each of the four SCH writers, who submitted individual ballots.

Mike Hardman

Position: Right wing
Birth date: Feb. 5, 1999 (23)
Acquired via: Undrafted free agent signing
2021-22 Team: Blackhawks (NHL) / IceHogs (AHL)
2021-22 NHL regular season stats: 2 points (0 G, 2 A), 11 PIM, 12 SOG, 0.0 S%, 9:18 ATOI, 39.42 CF%, 46.50 xGF%, 37.89 oZS% in 21 games
2021-22 AHL regular season stats: 32 points (19 G, 13 A), 8 PIM, 104 SOG, 18.3 S%, in 43 games
Size: 6-foot-2, 205 pounds
Contract: Two years, $800,000
Rankings: 24 (Dave, Mil), Unranked (LBR, Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: No. 25

Hardman was up at the NHL level towards the end of 2021, playing 19 of his 21 NHL games from last season between Oct. 19 and Dec. 11 before a quick call-up in January for two more games. Outside of that, he was with Rockford, where Hardman quietly put together a rather strong season for the IceHogs. He was second only to Lukas Reichel in goals and was tied for fifth with Josiah Slavin for the team lead in points.

One common theme for the IceHogs all season was that their most productive players tended to be linemates with the aforementioned Reichel, who was clearly Rockford’s MVP last season. But Hardman was afforded no such luxury, which makes his steady production all season a touch more encouraging. With a new coaching staff around, Hardman will need to make a quick impression to be considered a part of the long-term plans in Chicago, especially when factoring in Hardman’s age, as there will be plenty of younger prospects vying for the same spots.

Josiah Slavin

Position: Left wing
Birth date: Dec. 31, 1998 (23)
Acquired via: Seventh-round pick (193rd overall) in 2018 NHL Draft
2021-22 Team: Blackhawks (NHL) / IceHogs (AHL)
2021-22 NHL regular season stats: 1 point (0 G, 1 A), 4 PIM, 13 SOG, 0.0 S%, 12:02 ATOI, 46.69 CF%, 49.06 xGF%, 27.69 oZS% in 15 games
2021-22 AHL regular season stats: 32 points (18 G, 14 A), 17 PIM, 81 SOG, 22.2 S%, in 49 games
Size: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Contract: One year, $842,500 (entry-level contract)
Rankings: 22 (Dave), 23 (Mil), Unranked (LBR, Shepard)
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked

Slavin was at his best in the final weeks of the AHL regular season, tallying 9 points in 11 games to help Rockford clinch a postseason berth. He was quieter in the postseason, though, with only one assists in five Calder Cup Playoffs games while skating with Hardman and Evan Barratt. Still, Scott Powers of The Athletic wrote back in May that there are people in the Blackhawks organization who think Slavin could still make the leap to the NHL.

In a small NHL sample, Slavin was utilized in defense-heavy situations and still consistently churned out possession numbers that were at or above the team rates — a rarity for a team bereft of puck possession like the ‘21-22 Blackhawks. Still, the defensive-minded role that Slavin played in Chicago is also one he handled with Rockford, which included significant penalty kill time. If the Blackhawks current coaching regime opts for a lineup of three scoring lines with a shutdown, defensive-minded fourth line, then Slavin could be one of the candidates for that fourth-line center role. Like Hardman, though, age is not on his side, so Slavin will need to make a statement in a hurry.

Jake Wise

Position: Center
Birth date: Feb. 28, 2000 (22)
Acquired via: Third-round pick (69th overall) in 2018 NHL Draft
2021-22 Team: Ohio State (NCAA)
2021-22 NCAA regular season stats: 28 points (10 G, 18 A), 2 PIM in 35 games
Size: 5-foot-10, 190 pounds
Contract: Unsigned
Rankings: 22 (Shepard), 23 (LBR), Unranked (Dave, Mil)
Last T25U25 ranking: Unranked

Wise’s college career had nothing but setbacks early on. A couple of seasons at Boston were largely derailed by injuries and then, during the 2020-21 season, a case of COVID-19 helped limit Wise to just five hockey games. But Wise found new life after transferring to Ohio State last season, finishing third on the team with 28 points in 35 games. At Chicago’s prospect camp last month, Wise was named by Powers as one of the “other forwards who stood out.”

In an article from Wise’s hometown newspaper, The Eagle-Tribune, Wise raved about his first year with the Buckeyes:

“I love it at Ohio State,” said Wise, who will return for his final year of eligibility next winter. “Everything about being there is unbelievable. I love the players, love the coaches. I love the history of the program. Transferring to Ohio State is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

“Once transferring became official, I just felt so refreshed and felt like I could finally play with no pressure,” he said. “I was just so excited to get out there and play. After I scored my first goal (against Michigan State), and finally got that out of the way, I started to feel really great. I can’t wait to go back to OSU for my final season.”

With Wise still in college, the Blackhawks will retain his rights until next year. Should Wise thrive in his final season at Ohio State, he could get the long-awaited NHL contract that seemed like it was never going to come to Wise just a few years ago. Still a long way to go from there, but simply registering on the team’s radar again is a noticeable improvement from where Wise has been since the Blackhawks drafted him in 2018.