Corey Pronman at The Athletic does a terrific job of evaluating and writing about prospects. Like anyone else, he has some biases that come through (he’s never been a big fan of Blackhawks goaltending prospect Drew Commesso), but he’s historically been very fair and balanced in his evaluations.
So when he drops massive prospect rankings, I pay attention. On Tuesday, Pronman released his mid-season rankings of under-23 NHL players prospects. And the Blackhawks are fairly well represented — a change from list in previous seasons when the cupboard was relatively bare.
What’s important to note is that this list includes all players who haven’t hit their 23rd birthday yet, so there are some established NHL stars like Jack Hughes and Rasmus Dahlin at the top of the list. Where the Blackhawks’ younger players arrive on the list is notable. Philipp Kurashev graduated from the rankings because he aged out.
Chicago’s top prospect on the list is defenseman Kevin Korchinski, who Pronman has long loved when projecting to the NHL level. He has Korchinski in his “top of the lineup” tier at No. 30 overall. Here’s what he said about the Blackhawks’ top pick in the 2022 NHL Draft:
Korchinski has looked excellent this season, as one of the top defensemen in the CHL and a leading player on a top club even if he didn’t get much of a role on Canada’s U20 team. Korchinski controls the game when he’s on the ice, mostly due to his plus skating ability. His quickness and edgework are high end, with a smooth, powerful stride that lets him get up into attacks and walk the blue line like an NHLer. Korchinski isn’t the most physical defender, but his skating lets him close on guys well enough and he’s great on retrievals. He has very good hands and can make tough passes at a high rate. He looks like a high-in-the-lineup defenseman who impacts transition play and can put up points.
Korchinski was a bottom-pair defenseman on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the recent World Juniors, but as an 18-year-old that’s usually the case; Ethan Del Mastro was the seventh defenseman for their gold medal-winning team in August and emerged as an assistant captain and top-minute player just a few short months later.
As a point of note: Pronman has former Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach ranked No. 38, second in his “Bubble top and middle-of-the-lineup player or quality starting goaltender” tier.
Lukas Reichel came in at No. 55 overall, in the same tier as Dach. Here’s Pronman’s evaluation of Reichel:
Reichel was a minor surprise to be cut from Chicago’s camp. Since then he’s been quite good in the AHL, drawing positive reviews from scouts, playing center regularly and was a recent call-up to the NHL. He’s a well-rounded forward. He skates well, has good hands and vision, can shoot the puck well, and works hard. He’s not an overly physical forward, but he plays hard and doesn’t shy from going to the high-percentage areas of the offensive zone.
Pronman has always liked Reichel’s compete level, and I think we saw that on display in his most recent three-game stint with the NHL club. His mention of Reichel playing center at the AHL level — something general manager Kyle Davidson specifically mentioned when he spoke with the media after assigning the team’s top prospect back to the minors — is important as well.
Pronman’s next tier starts at No. 72 overall and is titled “Middle-of-the-lineup player or starting goaltender.” Frank Nazar came in this category at No. 97, which is three spots lower than he ranked in August before missing all of his freshman season at Michigan to date because of injury.
As a second point of note: Pronman has former Blackhawks defenseman Adam Boqvist at No. 107.
Boston University freshman forward Ryan Greene also came into this category at No. 127. He was not rated by Pronman in August, but his stellar first collegiate season has gained recognition beyond Chicago. He has 17 points in 19 games as a true, 18-year-old freshman in the always-tough Hockey East Conference this season.
Pronman came back on Thursday morning with some comments specifically about 2022 draft players who have improved their standing the most. Greene was near the top of that list. Here’s what Pronman had to say about Greene this season:
- Greene was a tough player to figure out as a draft eligible. In the USHL you saw the talent he had. He was a good skater with legit skill, playmaking and finishing ability who also killed penalties for his junior team. Yet in his draft season he was 30th in league scoring and well below a point/game. I still liked him because of the talent but wasn’t over the moon about him. This season we’ve seen that talent again as a freshman at Boston University, but it’s on display more consistently. Greene has been excellent in college and came very close to making Canada’s U20 team.
At No. 152 overall, center Ilya Safonov joins Greene in making this list after failing to be ranked in August. The Blackhawks drafted Safonov in the sixth-round (No. 172 overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft but he’s grabbed some eyeballs from the international scouting community over the past season and a half because of his strong play. The 21-year-old has 23 points in 47 games in the KHL this season.
I was disappointed that Del Mastro was missed on the list. His performance at the World Juniors was enough for me to think he should have at least been somewhere on the list. Commesso was also not mentioned on the list, which includes 154 total players.