Thursday, April 18, 2024

Despite Rough Night For Blackhawks Defenseman, Team’s Strategy Is Going According To Plan

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Rookie defenseman Kevin Korchinski drew the ire of many fans and media members with an ugly performance in last night’s loss to the Kings. He scored a goal but was -4 on the night and allowed the opposing attackers to get into the crease pretty much at will. The lowlight came when he made a poor pass that allowed Anze Kopitar to score his first goal. His advanced metrics essentially showed the same:

Korchinski has had a few nights like Tuesday (though that was likely his worst outing yet), but that just means that the Blackhawks’ strategy is going perfectly according to plan.

When the 19-year-old defenseman made the jump to the NHL at the beginning of this season, we knew he was going to struggle. The 2022 seventh-overall pick was terrific in the WHL for the previous three seasons, but with the minimum age of AHL players at 20, he was stuck in a sort of “no-man’s land” as the year began. He had nothing left to learn in the junior ranks but was woefully underprepared for the game’s top level. Still, Chicago didn’t expect to compete this year, so the team decided to turn Korchinski into a full-time NHLer.

With that decision came the understanding that Korchinski would need time to develop into a competent blueliner, and he’s still improving. There’s no question he needs to work on multiple aspects of his game, including defensive awareness and keeping opponents out of the crease.

But Korchinski is clearly growing, and he’s doing so in a pretty impressive manner.

The young defenseman has skated in 1,101 minutes at even strength so far this season and is one of only three Blackhawks rookie defenseman to log over 1,000 – only accompanied by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Duncan Keith, both of whom were much more experienced by that point. His fifth goal puts him first among the Blackhawks’ defensemen this season, and the offensive play that he was drafted for is beginning to come through. He’s learning and doing so successfully, all in a season where he lost his father and where he’s still only a teenager.

While the young defenseman has plenty of room for improvement, he’s on his way to reaching the upside he was drafted for. Korchinski has struggled at times on the defensive end, like last night. But that doesn’t mean he’s doing exactly what he should be at this point in his career.

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