A memorable season for a few Blackhawks just came to an abrupt end.
On Sunday, Blackhawks prospects Kevin Korchinski, Nolan Allan, and Colton Dach competed in the Memorial Cup for a CHL championship, but fell short, as they suffered a 5-0 defeat.
The trio had a marathon of a season, as the road to a Memorial Cup appearance is a lengthy one. A team first has to win its league’s playoffs. In the WHL, the trio’s Seattle Thunderbirds didn’t have much trouble, winning their series 4-0, 4-0, 4-2, and 4-1. Although they had one of the most dominant runs of any team, their skaters still had to play 19 games before they even made it to the Memorial Cup Playoffs. Once they got to the four-team round robin, the team had to play in three high-stakes games, and went 2-1. They then won in the semifinals over the Peterborough Petes, sending them to a championship matchup with the Quebec Ramparts. The championship came after a 68-game regular season and was their 24th playoff game of the year. Additionally, all three prospects played for Chicago in the preseason as well as for Team Canada in the World Juniors.
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While their grueling schedule “put plenty of tread on the tires”, the experience each of these players gained throughout this year is tremendous for the future of the Blackhawks. Not only did the prospects get the chance to refine their game while proving themselves to the brass in Chicago, but they also did so with the pressure of win-or-go-home playoff matchups, an experience that can’t be overstated. During their time preparing to make the jump to the NHL, each of the three prospects on the Thunderbirds have performed well enough to spark hope in Chicago.
Korchinski, as the Blackhawks’ seventh overall pick last year, didn’t disappoint throughout this season. Between the regular season and playoffs, he played in 88 games. In that time, the defenseman put up 95 points on 15 goals and 80 assists. He looked tentative during the playoffs, and was occasionally in the wrong position, but his talent is clearly there, and he should be close to being ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.
Allan was sent to Seattle from the Prince Albert Raiders in a blockbuster deal in November, and was stout defensively throughout the rest of the season. The 20-year-old logged 41 games with the Thunderbirds, and added 16 points while defending the rush better than almost anyone. Allan was selected to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team after the championship game, as he took his game to another level throughout the playoffs, putting up 10 points in 19 postseason games. Drafted 32nd overall in 2021, Allan is a big part of the new wave of Blackhawks defensive talent.
Dach, the 62nd overall pick in 2021, rounds out the pool of Blackhawks in Seattle. He moved from the Kelowna Rockets in January, and played in nine games for the Thunderbirds the rest of the way, as well as 19 games in the postseason. With 10 points in the regular season and 14 throughout the playoffs, the forward was one of the more productive Thunderbirds on a per-game basis.
A loss in the Memorial Cup Final is a tough break for a team that’s played 24 playoff games this year, but the efforts of players like Korchinski, Allan, and Dach weren’t for nothing. The prospects gained tons of valuable playoff experience as well as hockey experience in general, and should be much closer to breaking onto the NHL roster in Chicago as early as next season.