Blackhawks’ Korchinski Showing Why He’s Chicago’s Top Prospect

One of the leaders on the Seattle Thunderbirds’ blue line this season has been Kevin Korchinski. The seventh overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft set new career highs in goals, assists and points while also capturing Gold at the 2023 World Juniors with Canada. One of the best playmaking defencemen in the entire Western Hockey League (WHL), his play this year is a big reason why the Thunderbirds made it all the way to the Memorial Cup.

Life as a Chicago Blackhawks Prospect

A player hearing their name called at the NHL Draft is always special, but hearing their name called in the top 10 by an Original Six franchise in the historic Bell Center is another. That is what happened at the 2022 Draft, as Korchinski was drafted by the Blackhawks seventh overall, making him the first WHLer selected that year. Looking back, it was a surreal moment for him and one he will always cherish.

Kevin Korchinski Seattle Thunderbirds
Kevin Korchinski, Seattle Thunderbirds (Candice Ward/CHL)

“It was really special. I was there with my family on draft day. Obviously, you never know what’s going to happen, so to hear your name called is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Being drafted to an organization is one thing, but having teammates also being prospects of that team can make the year more exciting. This season, the Thunderbirds acquired two of Korchinski’s future teammates during the season in Nolan Allan and Colton Dach, allowing the trio to reunite after meeting at development camp. It is safe to say that both trades have worked out well for Seattle as each has stepped up and helped guide the Thunderbirds to a WHL Championship.

“Yeah, definitely. You can talk about the future and those guys you go to dev and main camp with. I knew Dacher and Al before they were traded here, so it was good.”

It looks as though another high-end prospect will be added to Chicago’s prospect pool after they won the draft lottery and will have the chance to select Connor Bedard. He and Korchinski were teammates at the World Juniors, so the Thunderbirds defenceman knows exactly how special a player he is. While he couldn’t confirm whether or not the Blackhawks would draft the WHL MVP from this season, he is excited about the possibility of it happening.

“It was pretty cool. We were playing the Blazers in Game 6 when that happened. Obviously, we heard the news, and after the game, it was cool to reflect on it. (Connor) Bedard is probably going to go number one. You never know, but playing with a guy like that in the future will be very cool.”

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The future is bright in Chicago, with Korchinski being one of the reasons why. He is arguably their top prospect at the moment and will have a good chance of making the team as a 19-year-old next season. If he does head off to the NHL, though, it will leave a big hole on the Thunderbirds’ blue line as he has been one of, if not their best, defenceman over the past two seasons.

Getting to the Memorial Cup

Korchinski was part of Seattle’s team last season that made it all the way to the WHL Final before losing to the Edmonton Oil Kings. It was a real learning experience for him and the rest of the Thunderbirds on what exactly teams need to make it all the way to the Memorial Cup. A year later, they were able to use that experience and make it to the historic tournament.

“It has taken a lot of building and a lot of years,” said Korchinski. “We had a special team last year but couldn’t get it done, but this year, getting those added reinforcement, winning the Championship and getting to the Memorial Cup is really special. There is a lot of good character on this team.”

One of the ways Seattle has ensured they get to this point is by acquiring some of the best talents the WHL has to offer via trade. Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge was busy all season bringing in players like Dylan Guenther, Brad Lambert, and Luke Prokop, as well as Dach and Allan, to give Seattle an extra boost heading into the playoffs. The trades worked as they are now just one win away from playing for the Memorial Cup.

“We added a lot of pieces to the deadline, like Gunner (Dylan Guenther), Dacher (Colton Dach) and Al (Nolan Allan). Those are big acquisitions and really good hockey players that have really helped us get over the hump.”

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The Thunderbirds have essentially created a super team with ten NHL-drafted players, as well as multiple 2023 prospects that are expected to hear their names called at the draft in June. They rolled through the postseason, only losing three games and now have a great opportunity to bring the Memorial Cup back to the United States for the first time since 2008, when the Spokane Chiefs won the Championship. A lot of work has been put in to get to this point, and Korchinski, as well as his teammates, are ready for whatever challenges await them.

Experience At The Memorial Cup

Through the round-robin, the Thunderbirds went 2-1, with Korchinski recording an assist in each game. In such a short tournament like this, it is easy to get caught up in the action and miss the opportunity to soak in the moment. When asked what his favourite memory so far was, one came to mind.

“Since it is such a quick tournament, each game has its own memories and story. Obviously, game one was very special, with Crank (Kyle Crnkovic) scoring a hat trick. I’ll have that memory for the rest of my life.”

Another cool experience for him in the tournament was beating the Kamloops Blazers in front of their hometown fans during the round-robin. The win was crucial as it meant they would skip the tiebreaker, and move right to the semi-finals. While the win was nice, Korchinski knows there are bigger games ahead.

“It was a really big win for us. The job isn’t done, though. They have a game against Peterborough, so if they win, we play them again in the semis, so that is the game we have our eyes focused on. That’s the biggest game and the one we need to get the job done. (The win against Kamloops) was a big step for us, but we have our eyes on the semi-finals.”

Related: 2023 Memorial Cup: 3 Takeaways From Seattle’s Win Over Blazers

After the Peterborough Petes defeated Kamloops in overtime during the tie-breaker, Seattle will now face them for a chance to advance to the Memorial Cup Final. While Korchinski and his teammates beat the Petes 10-2 in the round-robin, they know it will be a much tougher matchup this time around as Peterborough has momentum heading into the game. Expect him to put on a strong performance, once again as Seattle looks to qualify for their first-ever Final.

Bright Future For Korchinski

Regardless of the outcome of the Memorial Cup, Korchinski has proven he is among the best prospects in the NHL. He is strong in his own zone, can make crisp long distant tape to tape passes and is a threat in the offensive zone whenever the puck is on his stick. If he continues to develop as he has, the Blackhawks could be looking at their future top pair of defenceman and power play quarterback for the next decade.

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