What value could Boris Katchouk bring to the Blackhawks next season?

Acquired from the Lightning, the winger displayed traits that the Hawks need from their bottom six.

When the Blackhawks traded Brandon Hagel to the Lightning back in March, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the two players received in return.

While draft picks are never a guarantee, swapping a pair of fourth round picks for first round choices does seem to be an upgrade on paper. Outside of those picks, though, the Blackhawks added two forwards who were quickly placed in the lineup. In a bite-sized sample, Taylor Raddysh enjoyed some success with 10 points (6 G, 4 A) in 21 games. However, the other forward received in the Hagel trade provides more questions than answers.

Who is Boris Katchouk?

The 23-year-old forward was a second-round pick (44th overall) of the Lightning in the 2016 NHL Draft. He didn’t make his NHL debut until last season, though. In 59 NHL games during the 2021-22 season, Katchouk accumulated only 3 goals and 4 assists, which included the lone goal he scored that served as his only point in 21 games spent with the Blackhawks. However, all signs point to the idea that he was not drafted solely to tally points.

Even back in 2016, the Lightning were nowhere near short of offensive talent. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper is currently the longest tenured NHL coach (with their current position) for a reason. Tampa is loaded with talentthat covers all 200 feet of the ice. It seems rational that both Cooper and Lightning scouts saw Katchouk as a viable bottom-six forward who could provide value in various situations.

What does Katchouk provide for the Blackhawks?

One thing is for certain: the Blackhawks are in a rebuild and are going to need bodies to fill the roster. The good news here for Katchouk is that this situation provides him — and others — an opportunity to battle for ice time by putting their skills on display in various situations.

In Tampa, Katchouk’s shot attempt share (CF%) was above sea level at 52.2%, which was virtually identical to the team’s overall rate. This number dropped to a not-so-pretty 35.4% after being traded to Chicago. While his average time on ice stayed relatively the same (9:49 with the Lightning, 10:07 with the Blackhawks) this shift in possession quantity can be explained by his usage. In Tampa Bay, Katchouk split zone starts fairly evenly, getting 51.1% of his starts in the offensive zone and 48.9% in the defensive zone. Once he found himself wearing a red sweater, however, his defensive zone starts plummeted to an eye-popping 92.9%. While this small sample of surface-level statistics don’t paint the entire picture, they do begin to outline one.

It’s not entirely fair to judge Katchouk’s play based on analytics alone, primarily because of how much stronger the overall situation is in Tampa as compared to Chicago. And the overall sample of Katchouk’s NHL career is pretty small in general. One thing we can do, though, is dive into some of the strengths he’s displayed in this small sample size and draw conclusions based on what is known.

Katchouk may not be playing aside Patrick Kane or seeing much power play time but that doesn’t mean that he is wholly incapable offensively. There have been moments where he’s displayed good hands and nice stickwork overall. He’s shown he’s capable of lifting the puck and finding the back of the net in high danger scoring areas.

Katchouk has also put his stickwork on display by creating problems for opposing teams in passing lanes. He’s shown good awareness playing on and away from the puck. And, while not the fastest skater, Katchouk still moves pretty well, especially for a player standing 6-foot-2 and weighting 206 pounds. His skating stood out more than anything in his 21 games with the Hawks. Given consistent linemates and some time to create chemistry, he could thrive while playing in a role that focuses primarily on defensive zone starts or even on the penalty kill.

Maybe he even has a little Dave Bolland in him?

Even if Katchouk doesn’t shine in the offensive zone as frequently as some of his teammates, it does seem like something is there. He could end up being a very useful piece both during and possibly after the Blackhawks rebuild. He is still young and has limited NHL experience. His development —  like many of his teammates — could depend on the coaching staff he plays for.

It’s fair to wager Katchouk will be afforded plenty of opportunities to fight for ice time next season and show where he excels most. Hopefully, for Hawks, he becomes one of the pieces that can help make next season pass as smooth as possible.