The future of the Chicago Blackhawks became much clearer after a flurry of deals during day one of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Blackhawks entered day one with zero picks in the first round and exited with three first-round selections. New general manager Kyle Davidson made it clear that the Hawks are fully in rebuild mode, and he kept his word. Here is a look at the main acquisitions and what this means for their future.
Chicago Blackhawks Draft Evaluation
DeBrincat and Dach Set Sail
Few Chicago Blackhawks players are safe from the chopping block, and the reality of this set in after Alex DeBrincat was traded ahead of round one. Davidson shocked the hockey world after finalizing one of the most anticipated trades of the offseason. The rumours of where the 24-year-old star winger would land have circulated for weeks, and the full package came as a surprise to most. The Ottowa Senators acquired DeBrincat in exchange for their 2022 7th overall, 39th overall, and 2024 third-round pick.
Following the third overall selection, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a three-way trade between the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Chicago Blackhawks. New York sent their 13th overall this year to Montreal in exchange for Alexander Romanov and pick 98. Then, Montreal swapped that 13th and pick 66 to Chicago in exchange for Kirby Dach.
New Guys in Town
Chicago used the 7th overall to select Kevin Korchinski from the Seattle Thunderbirds—yet another prospect to add to the Hawks defensive depth pool. Despite playing defence, the 18-year-old describes his offensive knack: “I’m an offensive-defenceman. Love to join the rush. Love to create offensively. And I do that by using my feet, using my puck skills, my passing ability. I love to be around the puck.” Korchinski recorded 65 points (4g, 61a) in 67 games for the Thunderbirds last season, placing him 4th overall in points among WHL defencemen. He also led all defencemen in the postseason with 19 points (6g, 13a) in 25 games. Korchinski compares his game most closely to another two-way defenceman: Shea Theodore. The Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette coached both Theodore and now Korchinksi.
In spite of the Hawks large repertoire of defensive prospects, Korchinski seems to be their guy. Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey believes Korchinski will be “different than a lot of the defencemen we’ve drafted in the last few years. He’s really puck-friendly. He’ll be a first-unit powerplay guy. Projects to be a first pairing defenceman.”
Kevin Korchinski wearing Luke Richardson's No. 22. pic.twitter.com/KBNBM5J3Or
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) July 8, 2022
At 13th overall, Chicago selected the University of Michigan commit Frank Nazar. With the departure of Dach and likely Dylan Strome, Nazar will look to fill in for the Hawks at centre. The USNDTP player compares his game to that of Brayden Point and is known for his speed and high compete level. Nazar is not afraid of Chicago’s rebuilding organization. In fact, he embraces it: “The team that I wanted to go to is a team that is rebuilding and wants more younger guys to get in there. I think this is a great opportunity for myself to get in there and make a push for one of the top spots.”
Not quite done yet, the Hawks made a third and final deal—this time with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Chicago sent their 2022 38th overall to Toronto in exchange for 25th overall and goaltender Petr Mrazek. For their last first-round selection, the Blackhawks selected defenceman Sam Rinzel at pick 25. Rinzel garnered the most attention during his 2021-22 season with Chaska High, a Minnesota High School hockey team. Here, he racked up 38 points (9g, 29a) in 27 games. Doneghey acknowledges Rinzel is on “the longer path” but feels there is “so much to mould with him.” Rinzel will play for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL this season before switching to the University of Minnesota the following season. It is less common for high school players to go this early, but the Hawks were impressed with Rinzel’s frame and smooth skating.
What’s Next for the Hawks
The next few seasons are still filled with question marks, and surely roadblocks, but the Chicago Blackhawks draft reiterated their plan: rebuild not retool. Losing both DeBrincat and Dach is not ideal, and neither player expected to be traded. However, DeBrincat was due for a new contract, and the Hawks have limited cap space. On day two of the draft, Duncan Keith announced his NHL retirement. This will enact a cap recapture, penalizing the Hawks with a $5.5 million cap hit this season and a $1.9 million hit in 2023-24. The Hawks are also still dealing with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s monster contracts for one more season. Concerning Dach, these past few seasons have not panned out as initially hoped. Granted the 20-year-old centre has been riddled with injuries, the Hawks simply felt it was time to move on.
The upcoming Hawks season is going to be bad, but the 2023 draft class will be worth it. On top of this, the Mrazek trade looks to be advantageous on both sides. For Toronto, they were looking to unload his cap hit after a bad stint last season. Also, the player Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas wanted at 25 was no longer available. For the Hawks, they got themselves a legitimate NHL goaltender—something they have been lacking since Marc Andre Fleury left. No matter how bad Mrazek potentially is next season, this is already a step up from what Chicago had. Now, Blackhawks fans should prepare for the upcoming free agency, a historically bad season, and the idea that Kane and Toews may not retire as Hawks.