One Blackhawk faces extra pressure to begin regular season

As the Chicago Blackhawks get set to open their regular season in Pittsburgh, all eyes will undoubtedly be on rookie Connor Bedard, and for good reason. 

As one of the most highly touted prospects to ever enter the league, Bedard is expected to turn the franchise around and bring his team multiple championships. 

While Bedard certainly has his fair share of pressure, perhaps the skater with the most at stake in Chicago is another rookie — Kevin Korchinski. The seventh overall pick of the Blackhawks in 2022 is set to make his debut on the second line.

After the Blackhawks held one final practice in Fifth Third Arena before heading to Pittsburgh, Korchinski was told by head coach Luke Richardson that he had made the team. 

Korchinski mentioned it was a “dream come true,” and that he’d have to be careful to not be star-struck when sharing the ice with future hall-of-famers Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson, among others. 

Although the spot currently belongs to Korchinski, his head coach made it abundantly clear that it’s by no means secured:

“We just told him, like everybody else in the league, it’s the best league in the world, congratulations, you earned the spot, but now every day is to keep it.”

If the 19-year-old is to remain with the team throughout the remainder of the season, he’ll have to prove himself in the first few games of the season. If he skates in fewer than 10 games over the course of the year, his entry-level contract will slide and begin next season. 

It’s definitely not the primary concern of Chicago at the moment, as they boast more than $11M in cap space. But the tremendous group of prospects entering the league for the team will need to be paid eventually, and will certainly constrict the franchise’s available funds. If they could push Korchinski’s contract another year, they could stagger those deals and build a perennial winner.

The Blackhawks answered one of their biggest offseason questions Monday when they kept Korchinski on the big-league roster, but now it’s up to him to stay there. 

His team may already have a plan for this season, but that doesn’t mean his play over the next few weeks won’t have a big impact. He’ll face plenty of first-game jitters, but Korchinski has no shortage of added pressure as he makes his NHL debut. 

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