Kyle Davidson went all-in on his vision last Thursday night when he made a trio of trades to land three first-round picks. Davidson says the Blackhawks got their guys in defenseman Kevin Korchinski (No. 7), Frank Nazar (No. 13), and Sam Rinzel (No. 25), and they lived up to the billing in their first taste of pro action at this week’s Development Camp in Chicago.
Center of attention
Nazar, a University of Michigan commit, was sandwiched between the only two defensemen drafted by the Blackhawks this summer. He had the strongest week of the three at development camp, showing flashes of a complete tool set in Friday’s camp-ending scrimmage.
Still, Nazar admits that his first taste of pro hockey (albeit against players with no NHL experience) was an eye opener as to how hard the next level of hockey is going to be.
“Definitely [learned] just how much harder it is to step towards the next level,” Nazar said Friday. “And I’m not saying that it’s too hard for me to do it; I’m just saying that it’s something that I kind of realized [this week]. Just gotta get at it even harder.”
Nazar created for others plenty this week. He also showed good hands when making plays for himself this week.
After a mid-summer week of action, Nazar admitted that he wasn’t 100 percent comfortable at the onset of the week, which in his eyes made his game less than perfect. Nazar said that once he gets going full-bore next season, things will get more comfortable for him.
“Right now, it’s just kind of feeling my body and getting into the right mood to go into the next season. Once I get back into playing mode, it seems like everything is going to even out. Right now, it’s the middle of summer, so it’s not going to be perfect, and I thought that’s how it was this week. But, as soon as we start going again, it’s going to feel better.”
As for now, Nazar is looking forward to some time off after a whirlwind of two weeks and looking forward to some rest for his body after a long week at his first pro camp.
“It’s definitely something to open your eyes up to, and take a deep breathe and realize like ‘wow, you’re here!’ And I loved it. Been going the last two weeks, which has been a little hard on the body, so right now, I can’t wait to get home, see my family, and just lay down. I had a blast and can’t wait until the next one.”
Strong back end
The defensemen the Blackhawks drafted in the first round — Korchinski and Rinzel — also had strong weeks at camp.
Korchinski looked fast and smooth this week, displaying his ability to get up and down the ice with ease, and he spent plenty of time working to create on the offensive end both by taking shots from close and deep and by passing and creating for teammates with ease.
New Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was impressed with what he saw out of Korchinski this week and told us that he would like him to watch some tape of the recently retired Duncan Keith and try to model his game in the vein of the future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“Kevin had a great camp here, too, as our first pick, and he’s a guy that can move the puck, have a good gap, good sticks. Not to compare him or anything, but a Duncan Keith, if he can try and emulate his game to that level, that’s someone that, you know, if he has a chance to look at some footage of him, that would be really helpful because he’s going to be a guy that moves the puck can add to the offense, but he’s such a good skater and mobility and a good stick. That really, that’s a good defenseman.”
Korchinski also caught the eye of new assistant coach Kevin Dean, who, like Richardson, spent his playing days on the blue line and has been a defensive coach since hanging his skates up.
“What I’ve noticed is how well he moves around the ice. He’s a pretty big kid. Looking at him off the ice and seeing the upside of how much he can fill out and get stronger and grow into his frame is exciting.”
I would go far as to say that Korchinski looked so smooth this week; he flew a bit under the radar. It was really impressive.
Rinzel didn’t draw the same high marks that Korchinski and Nazar drew from pundits around the league on draft night, but don’t sleep on him. Rinzel was Luke Richardson’s first mention today when asked who stood out to him this week at camp and called him a player that “was a real good steal in the draft.”
“You know, it was a lot of players to look at, but you know, a young player like Rinzel, he looks like a tall, lanky kind of guy off the ice, but when he gets on the ice, he really has great footwork and speed and skating. He’s got lots of work on as a young defenseman, as everybody does, but that’s just something that you can recognize, and I think that was a real good steal in the draft for us.”
Here’s another look at one of Rinzel’s shifts in today’s scrimmage. You can see how well the six-foot-three defenseman can move here:
Sure, it was just one week for this trio of first-rounders, but Davidson’s shrewd draft night strategy has staked his — and the Blackhawks’ — futures mainly on the shoulders of these kids. So, it was nice to see all three of them live up to their billing this week.
It was also nice for Blackhawks fans to get an injection of excitement between a treacherous season and the infancy of the rebuild. It’ll be a few years before we see these three in NHL action, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited about that eventual day when they do.