Blackhawks select Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, Sam Rinzel with 1st-round picks
Korchinski, the seventh overall pick, is a puck-moving offensive defenseman. Nazar, the 13th pick, is a dynamic-skating center. Rinzel, the 25th pick, is a long-term project defenseman.
MONTREAL — As the Blackhawks progress slowly through their rebuild, Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar and Sam Rinzel are three names that’ll be mentioned often.
The Hawks chose Korchinski, Nazar and Rinzel with the seventh, 13th and 25th overall picks, respectively, of the 2022 NHL Draft. All three picks were acquired from other teams during the course of Thursday as part of blockbuster trades involving Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Petr Mrazek.
The Hawks prioritized speed and compete level with all three picks — general manager Kyle Davidson described them as all “well-above-average skaters” — but surprised by picking two defensemen, given the preexisting defensive lean of their prospect pool.
Korchinski is an offensive defenseman who tallied a whopping 65 points in 67 games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds last season.
Standing sturdy at 6-2, 185 pounds at age 18, the Saskatchewan native said he models his game after Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore but grew up a Hawks fan because of his dad. However, despite talking to Hawks scouts during the season, he’d never met the team’s front office before being picked.
“[Korchinski is] unbelievable playmaker with the puck,” Hawks scouting director Mike Doneghey said. “He gets up ice fast, gets back for pucks fast, is really good on the power play. He’s different than a lot of the defensemen we’ve drafted in the last few years. He’s really puck friendly. He’ll be a first unit power-play guy [and] projects to be a first-pairing defenseman.”
The Hawks were also high on forward Cutter Gauthier, but he went fifth to the Flyers. They seriously considered Marco Kasper, who eventually went to the Red Wings with the eighth pick, before choosing Korchinski.
Nazar is an elusive center who tallied 70 points in 56 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season after transitioning from wing the season prior. He said he tallied five points in his first game at center and never looked back.
On the small side at 5-10, 181 pounds but highly competitive and laden with enticing attributes, he’s coincidentally not entirely dissimilar from Alex DeBrincat, whom the Hawks traded away Thursday. But the University of Michigan commit named Lightning star Brayden Point as his NHL role model.
“Frank’s just an absolute pistol,” Davidson said. “He competes like nobody else. He skates like nobody else. He’s just full speed, all the time, and all-out effort. He’s the kind of forward that will drag people into the fight with him.”
The Hawks traded up from 38th to 25th to nab Rinzel, whose stock had risen significantly in recent weeks. They were worried, based on intel, that the Blues at 23rd or Wild at 24th might take him first.
The 6-3 defenseman split time last season between Chaska High School in Minnesota and Waterloo of the USHL, where he’ll play next season before heading to the University of Minnesota in 2023. He said the Hawks had the most interest in him of any NHL team throughout the scouting process.
“He’s more on the longer path...but there’s just so much to mold with him,” Doneghey said, adding they’d like for Rinzel to gain weight. “The good pieces are there: the skating, the size, the right shot.”
While the Hawks’ stream of activity outpaced any team around the league Thursday, they still didn’t create as much of a stir as the host Canadiens did with the No. 1 pick, choosing Juraj Slafkovsky over longtime favorite Shane Wright.
Wright eventually slipped to fourth with the Kraken, with the Devils selecting Simon Nemec second — meaning both of the top two picks were Slovakian — and the Coyotes choosing Logan Cooley third.
The Hawks enter the remainder of the draft Friday with another nine picks in hand: 39th and 57th in the second round; 66th, 81st, 90th and 94th in the third round; 167th and 173rd in the sixth round; and 199th in the seventh round.
Doneghey said there are so many players the Hawks consider first-round caliber still available entering Friday that he’s confident they’ll get one at 39th. They’ll also consider packaging some of their third-round picks to acquire another second-round pick or more picks in 2023.