Over the last 18 months, Seattle Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge had regularly called Prince Albert Raiders GM Curtis Hunt about the possibility of trading for defenseman Nolan Allan.
On Wednesday, the two WHL organizations finally agreed on a deal. The Thunderbirds packaged three players and six WHL draft picks to acquire Allan, whom the Blackhawks selected with their 2021 first-round pick.
All of a sudden, two of the Hawks’ top prospects are teammates — and potentially more than that. There’s a good chance that Allan and Kevin -Korchinski, the Hawks’ seventh overall pick in 2022, will play the majority of the season on a pairing together.
And that fact isn’t being overlooked by their new (shared) junior team. During the negotiations, La Forge told Hunt, “We might as well get these guys together. They could play together for the next 15 years.”
Allan and Korchinski complement each other well.
The Hawks believe Korchinski could be one of the NHL’s next great offensive defensemen based on his elite skating, passing and reading-the-play abilities. He looked fantastic in NHL development and training camp, and he has 21 points in 14 games for Seattle this season, upping his production rate from his already-impressive 65 points in 67 games last season.
“Kevin has picked up right where he left off last year,” La Forge said. “He’s a dynamic offensive defenseman. He’s doing more defensive-type stuff for us this season out of necessity. We didn’t have the same defensive defensemen to start this year that we had last year. So he’s killing more penalties, he’s playing in more defensive situations and he’s handled it very well. We’re really happy with his development.”
Allan will help fill that defensive-defenseman void created by Blue Jackets prospect Samuel Knazko and Jets prospect Ty Bauer leaving the Thunderbirds to turn pro over the summer.
His NHL upside isn’t as high as Korchinski’s, but he’s big, physical, responsible and knows exactly how to shut down plays. He has learned how to contribute offensively, too, notching 41 points in 65 games last season and 11 in 16 games this season for Prince Albert before the trade.
“In our league, [Nolan] can do a little bit of everything,” La Forge said. “He’s a great defender. He’s shown the ability to play all special teams and eat a ton of minutes, especially late in the game.
“I’ve seen him score some nice goals, especially lately. That part of his game is developing. At this level, you have a calling card, and then your job in order to get to the NHL is to improve the other parts of your game. He has definitely done that.”
The Hawks already have sent development coaches to Seattle this fall to work with Korchinski, and they’ll presumably establish even more of a frequent-flier route now. Korchinski and Allan finding success together could provide a tantalizing glimpse into what the Hawks’ future defensive corps might look like.
More prospect updates
Sam Rinzel, the other defenseman the Hawks picked in the first round in 2022, is on a much slower path toward the NHL — which the team knew would be the case when choosing him. He has seven points in 13 games with Waterloo of the USHL, which is where he finished last season. He’ll enroll at Minnesota in 2023.
While Arvid Soderblom impresses in his ahead-of-schedule NHL stint this fall, Drew Commesso — the Hawks’ other top goalie prospect — has won four of five starts in his junior year at Boston University. His one loss was ugly, though. He allowed six goals in a 9-2 loss to Michigan on Oct. 14. He has a .905 save percentage, down from .914 last season.
Arguably the more exciting Hawks- related news at BU pertains to Ryan Greene, a second-round pick this past summer. The 19-year-old center already has boosted his prospect stock significantly and started his freshman season with a bang. He has 11 points in his first nine collegiate games, including six points in two matchups against UMass last weekend.
Frank Nazar and Colton Dach, arguably the Hawks’ top forward prospects, have run into injury issues.
Nazar underwent surgery and hasn’t played a game as a freshman at Michigan and likely won’t for a while. Dach suffered his second concussion in a short span (the first coming in development camp) soon after rejoining Kelowna of the WHL, but he returned Nov. 5 and has six points in his first six appearances.
A couple of hours west of Chicago, the Rockford IceHogs entered Friday with a 6-5-1 record, having won two straight. Lukas Reichel continues to rack up points, notching 14 in his first 12 games, but his overall game hasn’t been perfect, and he’s not on the verge of a call-up. Cole Guttman, the undrafted signing out of Denver who stood out during Hawks camp, missed time with a concussion but had three points in his first three games back.
Defensively, Jakub Galvas has played very well — he ranked sixth among all AHL defensemen entering Friday with 11 points in 11 games — but Alex Vlasic and Isaak Phillips seemingly remain ahead of him in the prospect hierarchy. The IceHogs notably boast the league’s top scorer in David Gust, who has 17 points, but he’s a 28-year-old journeyman on an AHL-only contract.
Gavin Hayes (17 points in 19 games for OHL Flint), Samuel Savoie (16 points in 17 games for QMJHL Gatineau) and Ethan Del Mastro (16 points in 15 games for OHL Mississauga) are chugging along roughly as expected.