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The Blackhawks just made a big decision on an important rookie not named Connor Bedard

Blackhawks defenseman Kevin Korchinski skates with the puck
Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

So much of the attention directed towards the Chicago Blackhawks this season will be centered on Connor Bedard — and understandably so. But one player alone — even an absurdly talented one like Bedard — does not a hockey team make, and Chicago is going to need several other pieces to complement No. 98 if it’s going to escape from the NHL dungeon where it’s resided for several seasons now.

And that’s why it’s encouraging that defenseman Kevin Korchinski is going to be sticking at the NHL level this season, as indicated by Korchinski suiting up for his 10th NHL game last week, starting the clock on the first of his three-year, entry-level contract.

Really, Korchinski’s looked like someone capable of an early leap to the NHL this from the first time he donned a Blackhawks sweater, which was during the 2022 preseason. Against the Detroit Red Wings, when he was still just 18 years old and only months removed from being selected No. 7 overall in the draft he did this:

The hands, the vision, the hockey IQ: it’s all right there on display. Yes, this was during a preseason game, but it’s still indicative of the overall hockey skill that Korchinski possesses. Combine that with as smooth a skater as you can find in the first round of an NHL draft and it all added up to a hockey player that didn’t seem like he was heading back to the WHL this season after torching that league with the Seattle Thunderbirds last season, finishing with 73 points (11 G, 62) in 54 regular-season games and 14 more points (3 G, 11 A) in 19 postseason games.

Through 11 games in the NHL this season, Korchinski is second among Blackhawks skaters with an average ice time of 19:40. His production is modest at just three points — all assists — but one of those points came from this beauty of a cross-ice pass that resulted in the primary assist on a Connor Bedard goal:

(Just don’t ask what happened in the rest of this game)

Korchinski’s game is all about what he can do on the offensive side of the ice, where he is as dynamic of a weapon as the Blackhawks have among their blue-line prospects. He’ll be prone to mistakes at times, such as the one below that he made during Sunday’s loss against the New Jersey Devils that directly led to a goal.

But focusing too much on those youthful mistakes puts too much of an emphasis on what Korchinski can’t do instead of focusing on what he can do, which is be the kind of offensive defenseman that terrifies opponents every time he crosses the blue line with speed and the puck. He should eventually usurp Seth Jones’ spot on the point on Chicago’s top power-play unit and handle it for the next decade-plus.

Korchinski isn’t the only other enticing Blackhawks prospect (non-Connor Bedard division) who’s skating consistent minutes this season. Wyatt Kaiser and Alex Vlasic are getting lengthy looks on the blue line, while 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel appears firmly locked in to Chicago’s top-six — recently moving from center to wing in an effort to get his offense going after Reichel opened the season without a point in nine games.

Chicago still isn’t going to win a ton of games this season, but with Korchinski now in the fold for the rest of the ride and several other up-and-coming prospects with him, it’s made this season’s Blackhawks infinitely more interesting to watch than the 2021-22 version of the team that was built to lose.