‘Quiet but effective’ has long been a mark of NHL defenceman who make their careers out of being positioned in the right place. That description is also what makes Kaedan Korczak an interesting prospect. He is rarely flashy, but he can be relied on thanks to his attributes and smart play.
Birthplace: Yorkton, SK, CAN
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: Kelowna Rockets
Korczak scored around a point every other game in the WHL this season. He was a pillar of the Kelowna Rockets’ blue line and used for long minutes, especially when Lassi Thomson — the other draft-eligible back of the Rocket — was injured.
For that stretch of games, Korczak’s ice time jumped to around 30 minutes per night, facing all of best opposing players, on top of his use on both special-teams units.
The right-handed defender is a good skater who has no trouble keeping up with the play in all four directions. Even if he doesn’t stand out with exceptional mobility (unlike Thomson) he has the advantage in terms of physicality.
Korczak is solid in close quarters. At 6’2”, he has an advantage over many opponents, and is also strongly built. He can separate attackers from the puck along the boards and prevent net-front plays by denying access to the area. The defenceman is also smart in his defensive game. He takes good angles and reads the intentions of the oppositions well. It’s what earned him so much playing time from his coaching staff.
Here are a few sequences of Korczak breaking up plays:
The defenceman first tries to limit the time and space of opponents as much as possible. He is aggressive with his stick, keeping it on pucks in possession of attackers as much as possible to deny shots on net and cut anticipated passing lanes. He wins stick battles in front of the net to nullify opposing touches on rebounding pucks, and makes timely uses of his body. He is rarely overaggressive and has a good sense of timing.
But Korczak isn’t only a defensive defenceman.
He has poise under pressure and is not one to send the puck to covered teammates just to free himself from the forecheck if he can make a better play. He actively looks for the best outlet, and holds on to possession as long as he should to find that outlet.
In the above clips, Korzcak completes his defensive play by either passing the puck out of the zone or rushing it out himself. He uses the walls, but does so to create an indirect pass that bounces onto the stick of teammate, allowing him to accelerate into open ice.
The defenceman is also consistently shoulder-checking to gauge the pressure he has on himself. It serves him well in the first play of the video below. As he enters the offensive zone, he receives a drop-pass, but sees that the back pressure is about to get to him, so he quickly gets off the wall and connects with a teammate in front of the net.
In the offensive zone, Korzcak has the same poise he displays in transition. He isn’t very creative, but with some slight use of deception, he finds ways to get shots through from the blue line or jump up from it to release from closer to the slot.
The defenceman looks like an all-around contributor in his advanced stats. He doesn’t stand out in any particular category (except maybe in his rush defence) but doesn’t have many weaknesses, either.
At the draft, due to this blend of skill but lack of standout attributes, it’s likely that Korczak name’s comes up in the second round. An NHL team will definitely want to add a solid blue-liner who could potentially play some tough minutes, safely guard their blue line, and stop the opposing cycle in their end before making five-foot passes to quickly transition the play up the ice.
His handedness, which is rarer in the draft, also makes it more likely that an organization in need of right-handed shooting blue-liners move his name up their draft board.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #31
Hockey Prospect: #54
ISS Hockey: #29
NHL Central Scouting: #32 (NA skaters)