Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
One of the first big moves the new Hawks regime made was trading their 24-year-old 40-goal scorer, Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Sentaors. As part of the trade package, Chicago received the No. 7 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, which turned into Seattle Thunderbirds defensemen, Kevin Korchinski.
As if the trade itself was not controversial enough, there was also some confusion afterwards that the team didn’t use its top-10 draft choice to address the lack of forwards in the team’s prospect pipeline. After all, the Blackhawks had just traded their best offensive weapon not named Patrick Kane and also sent away 2019 No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens.
When we wrote about Korchinski following that draft pick in the summer, it outlined what what to expect in terms of both Korchinski’s floor and ceiling. What we know at this moment and what the scouts see in Korchinski’s potential are two different things at the moment, and Korchinski’s ranking on this list is primarily based on his pedigree and what he could become for the Blackhawks. The young blue-liner has some size, skates rather well and piles up assists like they're trading cards. But the question for Korchinski is whether or not that skill set will translate to the NHL level? Korchinski just turned 18 years old and it’s going to be a while — potentially a long while — before we see him in the NHL. But the fact that he tallied 65 points in 67 games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, coupled with where he was drafted, offers more insight into the overall idea that the Hawks see him as something special.
Korchinski’s game is not without his criticism, especially on the defensive side of the ice. However, at such a young age, most of his weaknesses can be addressed and there were no egregious errors noted during this weekend’s prospect showcase in Chicago. If Korchinski can learn to play a sound defensive game while still providing that offensive spark that’s clearly his strongest attribute, then he could turn out to be a crucial part of this long-term rebuild for the Hawks. But only time will tell.
Aside from having a fantastic Chicago sports name, Korchinski gives the Hawks organization the type of defensive prospect that is synonymous with success in today’s NHL. But his development will be crucial, because he’s far from a finished product. With that in mind, Korchinski will be back in the WHL this season in hopes he continues to develop into a piece that can fortify a Blackhawks blue line that is in desperate need of skill and depth.
If things go according to plan, Korchinski could be a gamble that pays off.