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Blackhawks of Tomorrow: Kevin Korchinski

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(Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in Chicago Hockey Now’s Blackhawks of Tomorrow series about Chicago Blackhawks prospects). 

It’s not every day a team trades a young, elite player for a lower top-10 pick in the NHL Draft. It’s a gamble and isn’t exactly guaranteed that the pick will hit, much less match the seventh overall billing. 

Yet this is exactly what happened when the Chicago Blackhawks drafted defenseman Kevin Korchinski. 

The pick was considered a strong one, but after a dynamite regular season with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, it may be a brilliant pick. Korchinski was third in team scoring with 73 points (11-62). As a defenseman. 

More impressive, Korchinski had six more goals and 13 additional points from the previous year. This is more impressive when he achieved it by playing 13 fewer games this season. In ten playoff games? Ten points. 

It might be safe to say the general manager Kyle Davidson got even more than he initially expected. 

Blackhawks Prospect Could be a Big Piece of the Puzzle

Sure, it’s early. But it can’t be understated that Korchiski’s early returns have even the most pessimistic fan hopeful. Chicago has undertaken the first of what could be a lengthy few years of rebuilding. But Korchinski seems positioned to end up in Chicago sooner rather than later. 

In a league that is trending more toward the offensive minded defenseman, Korchinski fits the bill. Taking a peak at Colorado’s Cale Makar, the defenseForeman who has taken the league by storm put up gaudy numbers as well. But those leagues weren’t as competitive as the one Korchinski currently skates in. 

Better yet, the 18-year-old was sixth amongst defensemen in the league in points. Again, playing on average 14 games less than those ahead of him. The 2022 seventh overall pick has been a consistent force in the Thunderbirds impressive run so far in the Western Hockey League playoffs. 

The Blackhawks dealt Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Patrick Kane away. They let Jonathan Toews walk away. All in the name of beginning anew, drafting and developing their way to another successful future. 

They might be onto it faster than even they thought with Korchinski.

Analysis

The floor for Korchinski seems a second pairing while the ceiling is a bonafide top pairing defenseman. He’s held his own in Seattle and has not only produced the aformentioned eye-popping numbers, but shown a maturity to go with it. Cale Makar jumped into the mix after a full year in college–and that was in the playoffs for Colorado. Korchinski shows that same hockey IQ and while it’s unfair to hold him up to Makar as an example, the Blackhawks did well grabbing him at seven.

Forecast

Korchinski has the chance to be Chicago’s best homegrown defensive prospect since the early days of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brent Seabrook. The latter of three three is the more apt comparison. Seabrook was the 14th overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft and a product of the Western Hockey League. With all three, the Blackhawks took their time developing. There is reason to beleive they’ll follow the same formula here, however, winning the lottery jackpot next Monday could potentially change their thinking. Korchinski is the real deal–it’s just a matter of when the brass feels it’s the right time to bring him aboard. 2024-25 seems the likeliest chance, but nine games in Chicago next season  doesn’t seem far fetched either.

Regardless, Chicago fans have good reason to be excited for Korchinski’s debut.

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