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Top 25 Under 25: Sam Hentges made some moves to be No. 24

An olympian makes his way on the Wild’s Top 25 Under 25 list.

Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 12 Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Welcome to this year’s Top 25 Under 25 series. If you’re unfamiliar, we’re going player-by-player in a ranking of the top 25 Minnesota Wild players that are under the age of 25. It’s fairly simple. Enjoy!

Sam Hentges is coming into a very important year for him. Beyond being crowned the 24th-best player under the age of 25 by this blog, the 23-year-old has finished his NCAA career with St. Cloud State and signed his first professional contract with the Wild earlier this summer. He has been able to remain a steady force throughout all four collegiate seasons, but professional hockey is something else and he might quickly find out what he needs to do more of to get noticed.

A seventh-round pick in 2018, just seven selections north of the very last pick in the entire draft, Hentges almost instantly started playing well enough to be considered one of the better players on his team and has kind of plateaued since his sophomore season. But in the end, he’s a 210th overall pick and was able to earn an NHL contract after going through the weird motions of playing hockey during a pandemic. We’ll see what the team has in him, but as of right now, he’s in this spot on the Top 25 Under 25 list.

The Stats

There is one thing that pops out on Hentges’s stats page almost immediately: He absolutely loves to score those dang goals. Almost everywhere and every season he played, his goal total was close enough to his assist total, which is a major enough tell that he was usually the finisher on his team and his linemates just simply weren’t that good at scoring. From what we can tell just by glancing at these numbers, is that there just wasn’t enough scoring chances being made — which Hentges could also play a part in — for the player to put up a significant amount of points, so he just ended up scoring goals.

Not to say that that would be the case, but it is easy to come to any sort of similar conclusion just by putting some numbers together and tilting your head a little bit for a couple seconds.

Hentges has missed time in his last three college seasons, so the amount of data for a full season isn’t there, but he does just seem like a goal-scoring forward that doesn’t take too many penalties either.

Roll the Tape

As mentioned above, Hentges loves shooting the absolute piss out of any puck he comes across and he can shoot it pretty dang well.

Most of his highlights that you come across — and they are pretty seldom at that since he is a 23-year-old seventh-round pick — are him just shooting the rubber as hard as he can and putting it behind the opposing goaltender.

He just really loves scoring goals and in multiple ways. Whether it is a mid-range snipe or something of a gritty, gutsy tally.

Maybe this versatility in scoring won’t stay with him beyond his college years, but at least Hentges has shown the capability of being That Guy for the teams he has been on. He puts the work in on most of his goals — or the goals that are available to watch — and that can be something that the Wild would absolutely love. The 23-year-old gets in the corners, isn’t afraid to fight for his possession, and can pot in some of those damn goals.

The Future

Playing your first taste of professional hockey at the age of 23 isn’t entirely uncommon, but it’s certainly not a regular thing to do. Hentges will be playing next season in the AHL after signing his two-year rookie deal which only brings up more questions than answers for what his future looks like.

He was a productive college player, but so are a lot of players; he’s just not played enough to really get a sense on what his ceiling can be. I would probably say something completely wrong if I tried to guess where he will be playing in a few years, so maybe I’ll just hold off on saying what kind of tier he is in compared to other players in the Wild’s system. Will he be just a depth player like a Mason Shaw or Brandon Duhaime? Or maybe his goal-scoring ability can make him an adequate middle-six player that can quickly make his way through the professional ranks and he ends up making his NHL debut in the upcoming season. Nobody knows and that’s what makes it intriguing.

Hockey Wilderness 2022 Top 25 Under 25

25. Mason Shaw, C/LW
24. Sam Hentges, C/LW