Blackhawks prospect notebook: Could Nolan Allan and Kevin Korchinski be an NHL pair?

The Blackhawks think there’s a chance Kevin Korchinski and Nolan Allan could be a future NHL defenseman pairing. They were at times paired together with the Blackhawks this summer and fall.

Now, there’s a chance they might be paired as WHL teammates as well. The Seattle Thunderbirds brought the two Blackhawks prospects together when they acquired Allan from the Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday. Korchinski was already with the Thunderbirds.

It’s not a given that Korchinski and Allan will be a pairing for the Thunderbirds. Both are left-handed shots, but there is a chance given their recent history together.

“I think the comfort level that I think Nolan and Kevin got to know each other at development camp, at rookie camp and then training camp together as partners,” Blackhawks assistant general manager of development Mark Eaton said. “So I think it remains to be seen if they’ll play together in Seattle, but Nolan showed his versatility this past training camp and being able to play the right side as a left shot. So I think that’s a nice option for the Seattle coaching staff to have.

“Who knows if they end up playing together this year, and you never know what the future holds, but, you know, it could potentially be a pairing going forward for the Blackhawks in years to come. You never know.”

Korchinski and Allan do complement each other well. Korchinski is more of the offensive defenseman and Allan is more of the defensive one. Both skate and pass the puck well.

The Blackhawks may also have another future NHL defensive pair in the making. With the Rockford IceHogs this season, 6-foot-6 Alex Vlasic and 6-foot-8 Louis Crevier have been a defensive pairing.

The fear for most coaches putting big defensemen like that together would be a lack of mobility and being exposed on rushes. But that hasn’t been the case with Vlasic, a left-handed shot, and Crevier, a right-handed shot. Both defensemen skate well enough where their size and length have been positives rather than liabilities. Neither are high-end offensive players, but they both move the puck well and help the offense get up ice.

“They’ve played well together,” Eaton said. “Between the two of them, they take up a lot of room out there, and, they’re both really good skaters, so that allows them to take up even more room and I think they’ve complemented each other pretty well. They’ve done a good job of first and foremost defending hard and taking care of their own zones, but moving the puck efficiently. Vlas has taken a step as far as finding the opportunities to join the rush and lug the puck on his own when the opportunity presents itself and kind of adding a dimension to his game. Both of them are off to a really good start.”

Eaton confirmed Blackhawks 2022 first-round pick Frank Nazar did have the undisclosed surgery that was previously reported was going to happen.

Eaton said there wasn’t an exact timeline on Nazar’s return.

“We’re just trying to make sure that he’s set up with the right process in place, which I think he does,” Eaton said. “Don’t really want to pressure him with any kind of a timeline. I think, first and foremost, you just want to make sure he’s doing all the right things and he’s taking, at least the allotted time to make sure this is fully recovered before he starts to get back at it.”

The Blackhawks had thought there was a possibility Nazar would turn pro after this season, but that’s unlikely now.

Who among the Blackhawks prospects might turn pro after this season? As of now, I would think Drew Commesso, Wyatt Kaiser, Ryder Rolston and Landon Slaggert among the college players. Among the junior players, Allan and Colton Dach are definitely turning pro. Korchinski is a strong possibility, especially considering his season so far and how he looked in training camp.

It was believed when forward prospect Jalen Luypen signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks in August that he’d be with the Rockford IceHogs this season as he rehabbed from surgery on his left rotator cuff and then played in the WHL. There’s a different plan, though. Once he’s healthy, he’ll be reassigned to the WHL and will play this season there.

Luypen’s WHL rights were traded from the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Tri-City Americans in August.

It is still early, but the Blackhawks and certainly many other teams around the league are already thinking about the trade deadline. So with that said, which teams might be looking at the Blackhawks’ forwards come early March? My guess right now would be the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers.

If you also want to get an early start at looking at the team’s prospect pipeline, here is Corey Pronman’s rankings from August.

It wouldn’t be shocking if the Blackhawks at some point turned David Gust’s AHL contract into an NHL one at least on a short-term deal. He’s been that good.

Gust isn’t your typical prospect at 28 years old, but he’s proven he can at least produce at a high rate in the AHL. He leads the IceHogs with 17 points in 12 games. His 1.42 points per game is fourth in the AHL (minimum of 10 games played). The Blackhawks like his offensive game, but they also respect that he plays hard and sets a good example for the younger player.

Whether Gust gets a contract may depend on how many contracts the Blackhawks think they’ll need free to sign prospects turning pro, but there is a possibility they reward Gust for his play this season.

The Blackhawks have also taken notice of Cole Guttman’s early play with the IceHogs. He missed almost a month with an injury, but he’s returned and has been productive. He has a goal and two assists in his first three games back.

The Blackhawks signed Guttman as a college free agent coming out of Denver. They thought he had a chance. He’s also a little older at 23 for a first-year pro, but he might get a shot in the NHL at some point this season.

“He’s adjusted really well,” Eaton said. “His hockey sense is a major asset for him. And he’s very early on earned the coach’s trust, and that’s what it’s all about for all of our guys at every level. So he showed early on that he can think the game at a high level, he knows where to be, he has the compete level to be able to make hard plays and make the right plays and in the right situations.”

Lukas Reichel responded well after a tough game a few weeks ago, but it’s clear the Blackhawks are showing him some tough love this season. They want him to be a significant piece going forward, and the goal now is to eliminate some of his bad habits.

“He’s a smart kid and he gets it,” Eaton said. “And I think this year is different. As far as in Rockford, we have a lot more depth, so he’s in a situation where nothing’s gonna be handed to him, he’s gonna have to earn it. And if he wants to play on the power play, and he wants to be in key offensive situations, he has to show that he’s willing to do the right things on the other side of the puck and give that consistent compete level shift in and shift out.

“If he’s not, he’s not going to play in those situations. He has shown that he’s willing to compete for his ice time and he’s shown that he can respond if he’s sat down or given those teaching moments. He can answer. We have to remember how young a lot of these guys are. It’s all part of the learning process. And he’s shown that he’s receptive to it. He’s gonna have to continue to earn those opportunities.”

Forward prospect Ryan Greene, a 2023 second-round draft pick, had himself a weekend (Nov. 11 and Nov. 12) for Boston University. Greene, a freshman, produced three goals and three assists in Boston’s two-game sweep of UMass. He was named Hockey East’s player of the week for his play.

“He’s a smart player, you know, a good skater,” Eaton said. “I think he’s a guy that at BU he’s gonna have an opportunity to play up and down the lineup and contribute in all areas of the game. So I think he’s good on both sides of the puck and has that element of speed that we’re looking for. Those are his biggest assets.”

Forward prospect Aidan Thompson, a 2022 third-round pick, performed well for Denver University last weekend. Thompson, who recently missed time with an injury, had two goals and an assist and won 15-of-24 faceoffs in two games against North Dakota.

“Sounds like he’s kind of hitting the ground running and he’s found a good spot in that lineup and he’s found a way to contribute,” Eaton said. “I know he showed very well over the summer at the camps and the injury was a disappointment, but he’s done a great job of putting in the work and recovering the right way and putting himself into a position to be able to step right in and contribute the way he does.”

(Photo of Nolan Allan: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Leave a Comment