Blackhawks report cards: Petr Mrázek, Alex Vlasic set standard for goalies, defensemen


The Chicago Blackhawks had one of the youngest defensemen groups in the NHL this season. Kevin Korchinski, the league’s youngest defenseman, and 22-year-old Alex Vlasic were in the lineup almost every night. But beyond them, the Blackhawks had plenty of other young defenders come in and out of the lineup throughout the season.

After looking at the forward group in our first series of report cards, we focus on the defensemen and the goalies in the second part.


Defensemen 

Louis Crevier, 22

Summary: Crevier came so far from last season to play in 24 NHL games this season. Late in 2022-23, he had been a healthy scratch for the Rockford IceHogs. A season later, he was playing in the NHL. Crevier still has a long way to go to be in the NHL permanently, but he showed some potential with his size and defensive ability.

Season-defining stat: Crevier led all Blackhawks defensemen with 7.97 blocked shots per 60 minutes.

Future: Crevier is a restricted free agent and is expected to be re-signed. He’ll probably have to be patient for his next NHL opportunity, but he should be in the mix again next season.

Grade: C

Summary: For the second straight season, Jones came on strong in the second half, and only three players in the NHL logged more ice time per game than he did. The Blackhawks have yet to see a full season worthy of a No. 1 defenseman, but his work in helping partner Alex Vlasic blossom into a very promising defender shouldn’t be discounted.

Season-defining stat: Jones had just one goal in his first 47 games. He had seven goals in his last 20 games.

Future: Jones is signed through 2030 and will be here to see this rebuild through. His $9.5 million cap hit is too high for the value he brings, but he’s still a solid top-four defenseman and as the cap rises, his contract won’t look quite so onerous.

Grade: B-

Wyatt Kaiser, 21 

Summary: Kaiser had a very strong camp but looked overwhelmed early in the season. After a three-month stint on the top pair in Rockford, he returned for the final month of the season and looked more like the puck-moving defenseman the Blackhawks envision he can be.

Season-defining stat: Kaiser had an even plus-minus, making him the only Blackhawks defenseman not in the negative.

Future: With veterans such as Jarred Tinordi and Jaycob Megna likely out of the way, Kaiser could make the jump to full-time NHLer next season. Or he could spend his 21-year-old season in Rockford developing and gaining experience in all situations. It worked pretty well for Vlasic.

Grade: C

Kevin Korchinski, 19

Summary: Korchinski was the youngest defenseman in the NHL this season, as he was too good for the Western Hockey League and too young for the American Hockey League. He only had rare glimpses of the offensive brilliance that made him the No. 7 pick in 2022, but he held his own defensively despite spending most of his time partnered with Megna or Nikita Zaitsev once Vlasic ascended to the top pairing alongside Jones.

Season-defining stat: Korchinski’s 33.01 percent actual goals share at five-on-five was dead last in the league among everyday defensemen.

Future: Korchinski will be eligible for the AHL next season if the Blackhawks feel he needs more seasoning, but more likely, GM Kyle Davidson will try to find him a more suitable partner to play with in free agency.

Grade: C+

Jaycob Megna, 31

Summary: Megna, a Chicago-area native, was claimed off the Seattle Kraken’s waiver-wire scrap heap at the height of the Blackhawks’ injury woes, and wound up becoming entrenched as Korchinski’s partner on the second pairing. His numbers were pretty ghastly (outscored 34-19 at five-on-five) but he provided some sorely needed stability on the back end.

Season-defining stat: Megna played in just six games with Seattle between his acquisition last February and the Blackhawks claiming him on Jan. 3.

Future: As an unrestricted free agent, Megna is highly unlikely to return.

Grade: C-

Summary: Murphy missed three months with a groin injury before rejoining the team in the final weeks of the season. His play has dipped considerably from his first few seasons in Chicago when he was usually the team’s most reliable defender.

Season-defining stat: Murphy was on the ice for a career-worst 3.26 goals against per 60 minutes. In his first 10 seasons, he had never been above 3.00.

Future: Murphy is signed for two more seasons, a contract that was given to him back when Stan Bowman was still in win-now mode. Had he not been hurt this season, he might have drawn interest at the trade deadline. He very well might play out his contract in Chicago, but if there are any suitors this summer, Davidson surely will listen.

Grade: Incomplete

Isaak Phillips, 22

Summary: Phillips played in more NHL games this season than he had in the past. Whether he was ready for that much NHL time is debatable. He had a lot of the same results regardless of who he was paired with. He and Tinordi especially struggled together.

Season-defining stat: The Blackhawks allowed 4.42 goals against per 60 in five-on-five play with Phillips on the ice. That was the worst rate in the league (minimum 500 minutes).

Future: Phillips is a restricted free agent and will likely be re-signed. As challenging as this season was, the Blackhawks aren’t likely to give up on a 22-year-old.

Grade: D

Jarred Tinordi, 32

Summary: Tinordi was respectable enough in a shutdown role alongside Murphy last season. He was rewarded with a one-year deal, but couldn’t duplicate his play this season. The Blackhawks allowed 4.14 goals against per 60 minutes with Tinordi, which was only slightly better than Phillips’ percentage.

Season-defining stat: The Blackhawks were outscored 49-19 in five-on-five play with Tinordi on the ice.

Future: Tinordi will be an unrestricted free agent and isn’t expected to be re-signed.

Grade: F

Alex Vlasic, 22 

Summary: The Blackhawks were confident Vlasic was ready to graduate from Rockford, but they had no idea he’d be the player he was this season. He was one of the league’s best shutdown defensemen in his first full NHL season. He played big minutes, faced top competition and often dominated.

Season-defining stat: The Blackhawks were outscored 51-50 in five-on-five play with Vlasic on the ice. Considering the Blackhawks were outscored 151-68 without him on the ice, his analytics are impressive.

Future: Vlasic is due a new contract this offseason. What that contract will look like should be one of the more interesting storylines this summer.

Grade: A

Nikita Zaitsev, 32

Summary: The Blackhawks took on Zaitsev as a salary dump, and he was never much more than that to them. He was better than last season, but that was a low bar to clear.

Season-defining stat: The Blackhawks have a 39.96 scoring chance percentage with Zaitsev on the ice.

Future: Zaitsev is not expected to be re-signed as an unrestricted free agent.

Grade: D


Goalies 

Summary: Mrázek was arguably the Blackhawks’ MVP of the season. As bad as the season was, it could have been much worse without him. Mrázek gave the Blackhawks a chance in most games. Plus, he stayed healthy. His 53 starts marked a new career high.

Season-defining stat: Mrázek had a .547 quality start percentage, according to Hockey Reference. It’s his highest percentage since 2018-19 among seasons in which he started at least 30 games.

Future: Mrázek signed a two-year extension with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Grade: A

Summary: Söderblom was promoted to the NHL this season after a few solid seasons in Rockford. The Blackhawks were hopeful he’d play himself into becoming the No. 1 goalie. He struggled, though, to find any consistency and became Mrázek’s backup.

Season-defining stat: He was last in the NHL with a minus-22.8 goals saved above average.

Future: Söderblom has another year on his contract. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Blackhawks create competition for him next season.

Grade: D

(Photo of Petr Mrázek making a save as Alex Vlasic battles with Anaheim Ducks forward Alex Killorn: Jamie Sabau / USA Today)





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