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Kevin Korchinski Will Benefit from the Roster Battle Royale

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When the Blackhawks were going through a brutal stretch as last winter dawned, some fans grew concerned about the play of Kevin Korchinski. After beating the Winnipeg Jets on December 27th at home, Chicago endured a horrific 4-20-4 stretch until they pulled out of the tailspin in early March.

It also happened to be the time injuries took out one Blackhawks player after another–which included the blue line. So while Alex Vlasic had a year more of professional play and often a more stable pairing partner with Seth Jones, Korchinski was paired with whoever wasn’t on the IR at the time. So Jaycob Megna, Nikita Zaitsev, or Jarred Tinordi.

None of them were Jones or Connor Murphy, the latter lost for three months to injury. Enter Korchinski’s struggles.

But with the moves general manager Kyle Davidson made in the last week, the infusion of talent that will cause roster battles will benefit Korchinski the most.

Development for Korchinski, Others Crucial to Success

With Artyom Levshunov signing his entry-level deal, he’ll likely get the same easing into hockey that Alex Vlasic received prior to his breakout season in 2023-24.

Korchinski didn’t get that at all. Because he played in the Western Hockey League and was only 19, it was either a full year in Chicago or a handful of games before sending him back to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Correctly, the Hawks opted to keep Korchinski in Chicago. The reasoning the same with Levshunov–it would allow them to develop Korchinski in the manner they saw fit.

The hitch in that plan arrived when the injuries rendered the roster so decimated–that Davidson had to pluck players off waivers and make trades to keep the talent level respectable.

Korchinski fought through it but there it was obvious that his play–and development–suffered a bit because of the circumstances. Davidson absolutely took note of it, too.

“Look, I’ve been in Chicago for over 10 years, and I’ve never seen a rash of injuries like that, so you don’t plan on that,” Davidson said.  “You don’t sign a team around that. But we went through it last year, and we were not the deepest team to begin with and we became a really shallow team in the middle of that year with all those injuries.

That’s not fair to the veterans, not fair especially to the young players, having to step in and play such heavy minutes that early in their career. And that to be asked so much from them during those times, that’s not healthy for their development.”

Kevin Korchinski Will Benefit From the Many Move Davidson Made

Davidson set out then not to react simply to what happened, but to make sure both veterans and younger players had what they needed to succeed. Everyone–from CEO Danny Wirtz to the fans following every move knew things needed to change. The Blackhawks needed a big shift because a 53-loss season couldn’t happen again.

Especially if guys like Kevin Korchinski were to become the top pairing defenseman Chicago envisioned when they took him seventh overall in 2022. While Davidson made the moves, it also isn’t a free ride for Korchinski, either.

“[He’s a guy] who has to come in and earn a spot,” Davidson said. “We’ve created some competition around roles, that’s what we wanted to do after the season, so him, much like anyone else, he has to come in and take a spot. Young guys will have to be convincing in doing so.”

Korchinski had 20 points in 76 games, with five of those points finding the back of the net. It passable for a guy whose natural instincts to jump in the rush took a back seat at times to be more responsible. Head coach Luke Richardson mentioned it several times throughout the season that they encouraged Korchinski to take advantage of those instincts.

Next season with a fuller lineup, he can certainly err on the side of offense instead of caution. Being paired with a veteran like TJ Brodie or Alec Martinez would allow for that. The Blackhawks will be looking for improvement in the stat line–but also for Korchinski to take his rightful spot and never surrender it with strong play.

That depth affords him the opportunity. Ultimately, it’ll be Korchinski’s job to lose but the Blackhawks seem confident that he’ll not only keep that job, but flourish with more help around him.

“We want to be sure they’re going to come in and elevate the whole group through their play and be able to sustain that,” Davidson added about Korchinski and the younger core.  “So, they have to come in and take a role.”

He’s done it before in Chicago–and don’t be surprised when he does it again. Only now, he’ll have a little more help this time around.

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