Sep 28, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Kevin Korchinski (55) skates against the St. Louis Blues at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
The more the 2023-24 season moves along, the more it is evident that Chicago Blackhawks rookie defenseman Kevin Korchinski is going to be a full-time, 82-game NHL player.
Following Saturday morning’s optional skate ahead of the Blackhawks taking on the Florida Panthers, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson essentially confirmed that Korchinksi’s plan this season is to remain in Chicago the full year.
“He had a good training camp and a really impressive start to the season,” Richardson said of the 19-year-old defenseman. “He’s composed out there and his skating ability is NHL-elite level already. His decision-making has been very good and he’s a bright kid. He takes in a lot of information and implements it into his game. There’s no reason to have that conversation at this point. He’s earned and deserved that right.”
Richardson said that his conversations with Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson about Korchinski and his development plan were back in the summer following a very successful season with the Seattle Thunderbirds for the 2022 seventh-overall pick. Was the plan in the summer always going to be having him with Chicago the full year?
“I think he had a really good opportunity to, but you never know,” Richardson continued. “He came in more mature and stronger from last year. He had a lot of good experiences last year too, going to the Memorial Cup and World Juniors, so there has been a lot of growth in his game and him as a person from last training camp to this year.”
Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers will be the tenth game of the season that Korchinski has played, pushing him past the nine-game threshold that rookies have to play in the NHL before the first year of their entry-level contract kicks-in. For Korchinski, that means he’ll be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2026 and if he plays more than 40 games this season, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent one year earlier than expected.
Here’s where Kevin Korchinksi ranks this season among 25 rookie defensemen in the NHL who have logged 80 minutes or more of 5v5 ice time (via Natural StatTrick):
TOI: 149:36 (8th)
Corsi-For%: 49.54 (11th)
Shots-For%: 51.15 (11th)
Expected Goals-For%: 47.70 (17th)
High-Danger Chances-For%: 46.88 (16th)
PDO (on-ice shooting % plus save %): 0.891 (25th)
Outside of his 5v5 PDO, this underlying numbers haven’t been bad for Korchinski as he gets his first taste of the NHL. He is doing so while spending time next to veterans Connor Murphy and Seth Jones on the second and first-pairs for Chicago defensively, a role not many 19-year-old players are asked to handle. He’s also just one of six rookie defensemen to log 20+ minutes of powerplay time to begin this season and ranks 4th among all rookies in average ice-time with 19:49 per game.
While having him in Chicago appears to be the most beneficial for Korchinski, there’s plenty of people North of the border who are keeping tabs on him as the month of November begins and the December 10 opening of Team Canada’s 2024 World Junior Championship training camp opens. The defending Gold Medalists would surely welcome having Korchinski back for his second go-around at the tournament, held in Sweden this year.
Have there been any discussions about making Korchinski available for the World Juniors? According to Richardson, “That’s unlikely. It’s a surprise to me if it happens.”
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