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2022 NHL Draft prospect profile: Kevin Korchinski is a high-risk, high-reward blue-liner

It wouldn’t be a shock to see this offensive defenceman be one of the first ones off the board.

Everett Silvertips v Seattle Thunderbirds Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images

In his first WHL season in 2020-21, Kevin Korchinski suited up for 23 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds and tallied a respectable 10 points (all assists) by season’s end. Fast forward just one year later and Korchinski ended up with the 61 assists — the most for a rookie since Pavel Brendl produced the same amount in 1998-99 — racking up an impressive near point-per-game performance with 65 points (4G, 61A) in 67 games.

He played a big part in getting the Thunderbirds to the playoffs. The post-season hasn’t slowed Korchinski down one bit; as of this writing, he’s managed to maintain the same pace with 14 points (5G, 9A) in the 15 games played so far.

Did I mention this guy is a defenceman?

Date of birth: June 24, 2004
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Despite his size, he doesn’t throw his 6’2” frame around much unless it’s to cover the ice. He’s one of those players who seems to be everywhere all the time, which is probably what helped earn him a plus/minus rating of plus-36. That mobility had him first on the roll call for the power play, which played a big role in his offensive totals. He used his time as the power-play quarterback to score about half of those apples.

Elite Prospects

In March, Korchinski was invited to compete in this year’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which showcases the top-40 CHL players eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft from across the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL. As part of the event, off-ice and on-ice testing was conducted, and Korchinski finished third in the 30-metre backward skate and ranked second in the reaction category. These numbers don’t come as a total shock when you take into his ability to read the options developing around him, his skating, and his good puck-handling skills. This combination of talents worked to make him one of the top WHL players in both controlled zone exit and entries.

After tracking Korchinski for 12 games, Mitch Brown found the defenceman to be in the 95th percentile of draft-eligible players in terms of their all-around game, with his lowest score coming on defence. While his defensive-zone prowess could use some work — he’s far from your traditional stay-at-home defenceman — his passing game, power-play talents, and transition game more than make up for it, making him a real challenger to be one of the first defenceman off the board.

Scouts and analysts seem to agree on the fact that he has poise and confidence, which comes through in his smooth puck-moving and driving the play. His patience with the puck comes in handy as he waits for an open lane for passing or makes the move himself by using his elite skating skills (arguably the best technique in this class) and speed to bring the puck into the neutral or offensive zone himself. As we’ve seen from his notable assist record, Korchinski is not greedy with the puck and loves to rack up those assists so once he finds his opening he’s not long setting up a teammate for the finish.

One of the main things he needs to work on is his defensive positioning and discipline. And that is a tad important for a defenceman. The confidence we spoke about earlier can sometimes come back to bite him in the butt. He’s not afraid to join the attack and take a risk, but he’s often a little too aggressive when fighting for the puck. His eagerness to go on the attack leads to poor puck decisions and can end up hindering his team rather than helping.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #12
FC Hockey: #7
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #25
McKeen’s: #46
Craig Button: #18
NHL Central Scouting: #7 (North American skaters)
Sportsnet: #21
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #17
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #28

It’s no wonder that his rankings range from 7 to 46. When Korchinski is on, he’s on. But when the turnovers and lack of attention to detail start to show, some might think this kid is never going to make it to the NHL. He’s drawn comparisons to Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Shea Theodore due to having both slick skating abilities and coast-to-coast puck-moving. It took Theodore a little time to find his groove in the NHL but eventually, he started to thrive, going from 29 points (6G, 23A) in the 2017-18 season to continue climbing as each season passed. He eventually reached top-four defenceman status, finishing the 2021-22 season with 52 points (14G, 38A) in 78 contests. That’s not a bad career path to emulate.

Hockey Prospecting

Despite the peaks and valleys of his on-ice performances, Korchinski is the highest-rated prospect from the U.S. Division and this mobile defenceman could end up going late in the first and just might find himself as a top-four defenceman in the near future.