As the Chicago Blackhawks head into the 2023-24 season, they have a loaded pipeline of prospects. Where it gets difficult, is determining exactly where they are on their journey and how that plays into their ranking.
Instead of writing a longer 2000+ word piece, CHN has opted to write ten shorter pieces that lays out the reasoning for the spot in their respective ranking. Believe me, looking at the list it’s not a simple notion outside of #1, which is a slam dunk. Essentially, the considerations with rankings worked like this:
- Where is this current prospect in their readiness with the Blackhawks? A Lukas Reichel is much closer compared to a Gavin Hayes.
- How does the current prospect rank out in terms of their ceiling as opposed to other prospects on the list?
- How has the prospect performed within their respective league–and how does that league rank out against others?
CHN’s third ranked prospect in the Blackhawks system is defenseman Kevin Korchinski.
Korchinski Could Very Well Be a Graduate Next Season, Too
The first two ranked prospects will not be on the list next season. But what about Korchinski? Because his rights are held by the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, he would go back to junior hockey if the Blackhawks feel he’s not ready to be on an NHL roster. Now, this could very well happen as they know time is on their side. But in the same token, what would another season do developmentally for a kid who already tore it up? 73 points in 54 games, 11 of them goals. 14 more points in a dominant 19 games that saw Seattle win the Western Hockey League championship.
What is there left for him to prove at the WHL? Rockford IceHogs head coach Anders Sorensen first impression of him at camp was that he came back “thicker.” Korchinski could only laugh.
“Yeah, definitely been in the gym, definitely been putting on a bit of weight, not too much where I feel slow.” Korchinski said. “I’ve been working back at home, whether it’s nutrition or its just working out. It’s a big goal for me to put on a bit of weight this summer so that in training camp I feel stronger so I can battle with men.”
It will absolutely be men he’s skating against, likely paired against some of the best as he finds his way.
Blackhawks ETA: 2023-24
I’m simply putting it out there, and it’s why he’s third on the list behind a generational player in Bedard and a forward with NHL games under his belt already. Korchinski’s hockey IQ is high and it was evident in his postseason play. But he’s already included on the “Program of Excellence” priming him for another trip to the World Juniors.
If he’s not already strong part of Chicago’s blueline corps in December.
Kevin Korchinski was one of 1⃣0⃣9⃣ CHL players that took part in @HockeyCanada's Program of Excellence summer meetings earlier this month ⬇️
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) July 26, 2023
After Seattle lost to Quebec in the Memorial Cup Final, I wrote this about Korchinski’s play:
Finally, Korchinski’s high hockey IQ, namely being in the right place at the right time, only got stronger with each game. Yes, he had mistakes–he is human. But Korchinski’s awareness after mistakes is what sets him apart.
There was a key moment against Kamloops during the Memorial Cup where he had a chance to lead the rush. Instead, he hurried a pass, it was intercepted, the rush went the other way, and the puck ended up in the back of Seattle’s net.
Seattle would go onto win 6-1, with Korchinski still contributing offensively which included an assist. But he didn’t make the mistake again. When trying to make those same passes later, there was just slight hesitation before sending it, to ensure he didn’t make the same mistake twice.
This is just a small little detail but it’s one that underscores what Korchinski can be for the Blackhawks. There is an opportunity, should he make the roster, to log minutes on a pairing with Seth Jones. Jones might actually get a chance now to break out as Chicago envisioned when they traded for him. It will take time for Korchinski to acclimate if indeed he begins in Chicago, but it could be a dynamite pairing for the Blackhawks. Jones potted 12 goals last season. Korchinski could help bring those numbers up even more.
Again, it’s a slow game. General manager Kyle Davidson has said he’ll go the Lukas Reichel route and burn the first year of Korchinski’s deal–if it’s right for him. But all along since being drafted, he’s reminded me of another young Chicago defenseman who took his lumps as a youngster in the NHL before turning into a franchise defining cornerstone.
That would be Duncan Keith. He may not have the wheels but he has the smarts and the rounded game to develop into that type of player for Chicago. But if you want current comparisons? The ESPN crew likened his smarts to that of one Cale Makar as he made his way to the stage once his named was called.
No matter the comparison, he’s looked pretty damn good during some pressure packed hockey. It’s not far fetched to think that Korchinski could potentially develop into a foundational–maybe even franchise–player for Chicago.
CHN’s Top Ten Ranked Blackhawks Prospects