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.
Jalen Luypen went undrafted in his first year of eligibility. He registered just 18 points in 64 games during his age-17 season, scoring just nine goals. Those numbers were deemed unworthy of even a seventh-round pick, and Luypen returned to juniors for another season.
And he came back stronger and better the next season, scoring 29 points in 23 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 hockey season. In a limited sample size, Luypen scored 16 goals, found confidence in his shot and developed into one of the best offensive weapons in the WHL.
After being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2021 NHL Draft, Luypen’s confidence in his shot remained for the 2021-22 season. He racked up 200 shots on goal, and was rewarded for his persistence with nearly 30 goals. Luypen’s game is complemented by his tenacity, as Luypen took 78 penalty minutes in his age-19 season.
It’s easier to trade a player like Brandon Hagel during a rebuild when you have a potential replacement squared away. That’s what Luypen appears to be — a forward who can play any of the three roles, especially being the go-to faceoff specialist on the Oil Kings last year — who can both shoot the puck and draw a penalty, although the tendency to take stupid ones is a little too early-career Brad Marchand for my liking.
Sure, Luypen has to learn to keep himself on the ice instead of going to the penalty box so often after averaging more than a penalty minute per game last season. There will be plenty of time to learn that alongside fellow future Blackhawks in Rockford this season, as Luypen makes the professional transition.
Luypen may be small — at just 5-10, 155 pounds, despite his success at the dot, it’s unlikely he’ll get many minutes at center — but he is a good forechecker. And again, he’s not afraid to shoot the puck, which is something the Blackhawks have had problems with in the past with talented prospects (see Dach, Kirby or Nylander, Alex).
Although Luypen’s overall numbers were slightly down over a larger sample size — 0.97 points per game last season compared to 1.26 in the season prior — Luypen continued to showcase ability and scored more goals.
After two seasons of high shooting percentages, perhaps it’s in Luypen’s nature to be an efficient shooter. After all, one of the reasons that the recently bought-out Brett Connolly stuck in the league so long was that he was the most efficient shooter for a long stretch. Luypen is also a sniper who’s able to pick his spots effectively, which adds another dimension to his goal scoring.
Luypen looks like a middle-six or third-line play driver and chance converter, which remains a necessity. It will also be a while before Luypen makes an NHL impact, as there’s a crowded group ahead of him currently, although he could play much of the season in Rockford’s top-six group.
After the last two seasons, Luypen has also showcased an ability to play anywhere in any situation. With three shorthanded goals, Luypen has added to his defensive ability, which was one of the weak points from his 2020-21 season. That sort of utility is rare.
In a draft where Stan Bowman was clearly looking for size over other qualities, including the drafting of one Taige Harding, his smallest pick may be the steal of the group. The mobile, aggressive Luypen looks to be in the model of one Andrew Shaw. Now, if only he can be taught to control the temperature and to only take necessary penalties.
Jalen Luypen scores short-handed to cut the Bulldogs lead in half!— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 25, 2022
Bulldogs lead 2-1 early in the 3rd period.#MemorialCup pic.twitter.com/MmgWbZfLoT
Luypen will make his professional debut with the Rockford IceHogs this season, and look to move up the lineup throughout the season. If Luypen can get some time on the power play and on the first or second line, he may be able to show that his efficient scoring and forechecking prowess translate to the professional game. That would set him up for further success in the organization.