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Under different management, Chicago Blackhawks 2022 seventh-overall draft pick Kevin Korchinski might have started his NHL career in the 2022-23 season. Going into the 2022 draft, the Blackhawks had zero picks in the first round, but after trading Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and acquiring Petr Mrazek, they walked away with three picks with Korchinski the headliner of the class.
A highly-skilled, smooth-skating, sizable defenseman with elite offensive ability, the temptation to play Korchinski right away was there. But Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson’s plans for the organization and the prospects has been to be patient. After a strong showing in prospect camp, training camp, and the preseason ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season, Davidson had no issue with sending Korchinski back to the WHL to play top-pair minutes with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
He excelled, to say the least.
Korchinksi finished his 2022-23 season as a WHL Champion, a World Juniors Gold Medalist, a nominee for the WHL Defenseman of the Year Award, and was named to the CHL All-Star Third Team. He tallied 73 points in 54 WHL games last season and added 14 points in 19 postseason games. He did everything he was supposed to do.
So what more can he accomplish or does he have to prove at the Junior level?
During his first media availability of the 2023 Blackhawks Prospect Camp, head coach Luke Richardson addressed the possibility for the 19-year-old to make the opening night NHL roster.
Richardson is a full believer in playing time based on merit, not any other ancillary reasons. If Korchinksi is in fact going to be an 82-game NHL player, he’s going to have to prove it hundreds of times over and won’t be handed anything. A number of pundits and local media have Korchinski penciled-in for the opening night roster already, but opening night roster and 82 NHL games are two different things.
He has the tools, but how sharp are they right now?
If ever there was a season where the Blackhawks could throw ideas at the wall, so to speak, and see what sticks for the organization, this is the year to do it. Is Lukas Reichel an NHL center? Is Connor Bedard an NHL center? Is Avid Söderblom more than an NHL backup? Is Kevin Korchinski NHL-ready? This is the year to do it.
I’m not fully convinced he plays more than the nine-game limit allowed before burning the first-year of his NHL entry-level contract. But if the organization believes he is ready, who am I to question that decision right now, given the on-ice track record of Richardson and Davidson?
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