Blackhawks rookie defenseman Nolan Allan and rookie forward Colton Dach grew up playing against each other on Western Hockey League teams — Prince Albert for Allan, Saskatoon for Dach — located only 80 minutes apart.
“So the games are always pretty physical,” Dach said, “and he’s a big defenseman out there. I took a few licks from him, but it’s all in good fun sometimes.”
Eventually, Allan and Dach became WHL teammates after being separately traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Fellow Hawks prospect Kevin Korchinski also played on the Thunderbirds. Now, all three players are gearing up for games against the Wild and Blues’ prospects in Minnesota to culminate Hawks prospect camp this weekend.
Allan, the 32nd overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, said he entered the camp hoping to show the Hawks he’s ready to play professional hockey. He’ll likely wind up with the Rockford IceHogs this season.
He’s a big-bodied defensive defenseman with good skating ability, and he used the summer to refine his offensive skills after a long WHL season in which he played 76 games in total.
“I’m a more defensive-minded player, so working on that offensive side of the game and working with the puck on my stick,” Allan said Thursday.
The first mention of Allan’s name elicits praise for his size and defensive ability, but Rockford coach Andres Sorenson has noticed the improved facets of Allan’s offensive game.
“He’s another guy with really good feet,” Sorensen said. “He is probably a bit more defense-oriented as a defenseman, but I do think his puck skills have improved over the last couple of years from what I’ve seen.”
Allan has subtly grown as an offensive player: He scored 41 points during the 2021-22 season and 27 points in the 2022-23 season before adding 10 points in 19 playoff games.
Dach said being teammates with Allan in Seattle allowed him to see how well he skates and moves the puck, and Allan said increased confidence in himself and his offensive abilities have helped boost his point totals.
“When I get a chance or an opportunity in the offensive zone, I’m just trusting myself to make the right play,” Allan said.
Allan and Korchinski are both left-handed but were able to coalesce for stretches playing on the same defensive pairing. Though it’s not his natural handedness, Allan said that playing on the right side is “something that I’m used to and that I’m comfortable with.”
But it’s still an adjustment when you haven’t played on that side in a while.
“The first game or two, you might be stuck on your backhand a little bit, trying to make plays to the middle,” Allan said. “It’s a lot about stick positioning and where you have the puck on your stick to be able to find lanes and make plays on your off-hand.”
Playing together in Seattle allowed Korchinski and Allan to build a rapport with one another on and off the ice. The two Hawks prospects are polar opposites in terms of play, but they are convinced they can play together. Korchinski said that they’re able to feed off each other on the ice.
“Kevin is more of an offensive defenseman — he likes to join [the rush] a lot and create a lot of offense — and I’m kind of Steady Eddy back there,” Allan said. “I hang back a little bit and make sure the pucks aren’t going in on our side of the net.”
After the longest season of his career, Allan is ready to show the Hawks brass he’s prepared — no matter what side of the ice he’s on — for professional hockey.