Scouting Report: Kevin Korchinski

Photo Credit: Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds

Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma

Kevin Korchinski is one of the top draft-eligible defensemen in the WHL this season and plays in all situations for the Seattle Thunderbirds. He blends size and strong edges with great puck skills, making him one of the more intriguing defensemen to come out of the WHL this season. Give him space and he’ll explore his options and seek to create offense with it. It’s a modern style of play, putting speed and puck moving over a “traditional” stay at home style.

In our preliminary rankings, we ranked Korchinski 44th. I felt that Korchinski’s skill was intriguing but not enough to overtake someone like Mats Lindgren at that point. Out of all of the players that I’ve watched this season, Korchinski has been the toughest for me to evaluate. You see moments where he can be dominant in transition and in the offensive zone, and then the next shift, he’ll be a detriment to his team. I’ll be highlighting what I like about Korchinski in this profile, what can be improved upon and what concerns me in this profile. After some more viewings of both Korchinski and Lindgren, I can say that I’d be comfortable putting them in the same tier. Lindgren and Korchinski both have NHL potential with some glaring inefficiencies that need ironing out before they set foot on NHL ice.

Player Profile

D.O.B – June 21, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Height –6’2″
Weight –185 lbs
Position – Defense
Handedness – Left

Korchinski’s Scouting Report

Korchinski is a defenseman with great to elite straight line speed, good to great crossovers and good backwards skating skills. It allows for him to play a mobile transition game that often features him carrying the puck into the neutral or offensive zones. Korchinski’s long stride allows for him to cover distances quickly and seal off gaps with relative ease, another advantage in the modern game. His top speed is above average for the WHL and while I don’t see him burning past players often, he is able to generate some separation between himself and an opposing defender with little difficulty. I have rarely seen Korchinski take a shift off, particularly in the offensive zone. He keeps his feet moving to establish a better position for himself and can skate well enough to cover up for any mistakes that his teammates might make.

I have a love/hate relationship with Korchinski’s puck carrying. On one hand, he’s a confident puck carrier that can enter the zone with the puck and attempt to create offense as a defenseman. He can dictate the pace of the game in transition and looks to involve his teammates. On the other hand, however, I feel that Korchinski skates himself into a corner too often and is forced to either turn the puck over along the boards or make a poor decision with a pass that ends up going the other way. Korchinski’s puck carrying has improved in recent games, especially considering how hit or miss it was earlier on this season. He’ll still have those moments where he’ll forget to scan the ice and skate the puck into the corners, get into a board battle and turn the puck over because he was unable to assess his options.

Korchinski can play under pressure well in the offensive zone, mainly due to his silky skating ability. His first step gives him enough power to quickly turn past an attacking player and protect the puck. He’ll make a quick move back to the forehand and dish a pass to a teammate, avoiding a turnover in the process. But, like his puck carrying, there are times when his judgment on his passes can be off and result in a turnover or the puck exiting the zone. Korchinski has a tendency to look like a completely different player depending on the shift. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and you can’t predict exactly when it will happen, just that it will happen eventually. This is what makes Korchinski such a difficult player to evaluate. His “Jekyll and Hyde” nature makes you swing from “wow this kid’s skill is absurd” to “I wouldn’t draft this kid” depending on the shift.

Korchinski likes to make simple passes and isn’t a flashy player. Whereas a player like Denton Mateychuk is constantly going to be looking to make a highly skilled play and create offense at every opportunity, Korchinski likes to slow things down and take the less risky approach. He’ll make a pass to his partner on defense, or to the forward nearest to him, but you rarely see Korchinski try to thread a seam pass across to a teammate. Now, there’s something to be said for simplicity. We’ll use Mateychuk as an example again, here. Mateychuk can be found guilty of trying to do too much in the offensive zone and getting burnt because of it. Korchinski makes simple passes and avoids too many risks. There are times where he’ll attempt a simple pass and it ends up on the stick of an opponent, though. Usually it’s because Korchinski only sees that one option.

That point brings me to my biggest question regarding Korchinski. It’s not the turnovers, skating the puck into a corner or simplicity of his game that bothers me. It’s his hockey sense. That’s where I start to question Korchinski heavily. I’ve already mentioned that Korchinski sometimes fails to scan the offensive zone for passing or shooting opportunities when the puck is on his stick. That’s the root cause for all of his turnovers, poor decision making, poor passes and more. It’s because he fails to assess his options in the offensive zone, so he’ll get singularly focused on skating the puck forward. When he runs out of space, he’ll panic and turn, which leads to turnovers. It kills any offensive momentum that his team was generating.

I see Korchinski play and there are times where I love the confidence he has with the puck and his ability to dictate the pace of play. Those are the times where I see Korchinski as a top defenseman in the WHL. There are also times where he can turn the puck over, make dumb decisions with his passes and miss assignments entirely. Korchinski isn’t always able to think the game at a high level, which means that he isn’t able to operate at the highest level he can.

Projectability

Three questions I have about Korchinski’s projectability:

  • Can Korchinski improve the mental side of his game?
  • How much of his mental mistakes aren’t teachable?
  • Will Korchinski’s individual skill cut it in the NHL?

The first question is complicated and will tie into the second. Korchinski’s brain tends to fall behind that of his teammates and he can quickly develop tunnel vision and lose his options because he doesn’t scan for passing plays in the offensive zone. He’ll lose his assignments and make rushed decisions because the game has quickly caught up to him. How much of that can you reasonably expect to improve over the course of his development? If Korchinski can’t make decisions quickly, can he improve it enough to make a difference, or improve it at all? That’s the biggest barrier to him getting to the NHL. When I’ve watched Korchinski this season, I’ve seen very little to convince me that he’ll be a surefire NHL player. The mental side of the game is so important and he’s clearly a step behind in that regard. Can you teach Korchinski how to make quicker decisions? Over the past few years, I’ve been watching prospect development closely, and the ones whose hockey sense is lacking are usually the ones that get left behind at the AHL level. Korchinski has pro potential due to his size skating and occasional skill with the puck, but the mental side of the game could be enough to keep him out of the NHL.

Korchinski has been a hotly debated player among the Smaht Scouting crew. North American Crossover Scout Austin Brass had this to say regarding Korchinski:

“In North America there are some really interesting, albeit flawed, offensive defensemen that will go anywhere from the late 1st round-mid second round. Korchinski may be the one player out of all of them that truly takes you on a rollercoaster ride every game. In three games tracked he has, in every game, had periods of excellence and periods of atrociousness. He started one game completing just 1 out of his first 9 passes, failed to exit the zone four times in a row, and gave up a 2-on-1 breakaway for a goal against. For the rest of the game? He went 13/14 passing, 4 dangerous pass attempts, and offensive zone play that rivaled some of the best in the class.

Korchinski has some truly projectable traits to his game, but his puck retrieval and pressure passing in his own zone HAS to get better if he’s going to translate to the NHL. Too often he’s panic passing and giving up grade A chances. Develop that part of his game and Korchinski could end up being an offensive leaning player in your top 4 and quarterback a power play at the NHL level.”

Jordan Malette, our OHL and QMJHL scout, has a different opinion on Korchinski, however.

“Korchinski has the mobility, puck skills, and confidence that immediately catches your eye in the first shifts. This package of tools is at the core of the upside in Korchinski’s game and contributes to a skillset that I define as projectable. Korchinski consistently drives play up ice with his passing and puck-carrying abilities, which feed into his successful transition game. He can put some zip on his stretch passes to catch the opposition off guard and spring his forwards for rush chances.

He excels when the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone. Korchinski frequently combines his footwork and puck skills to deceive defenders, open up passing lanes, and create shooting opportunities for his linemates. He can walk the blue line and leverage his mobility to evade pressure and create scoring chances. In addition, he can reliably distribute the puck without telegraphing his intentions to the opposition. What he showcases in the offensive zone demonstrates that he is a player you would want quarterbacking your powerplay, which further compounds his upside.

There are valid criticisms of Korchinski’s game, but the one that stands out is he can struggle when faced with oncoming pressure or in retrieval situations in the defensive zone. He can appear overwhelmed under pressure and make questionable decisions that lead to scoring chances and sustained attacks after failing to exit the zone. Playing under pressure is an essential component of succeeding at the NHL level, where time and space are harder to come by. However, he handles pressure well in other situations, so I see no reason why this aspect can’t improve, but it is something to monitor as he progresses in his development. There certainly is a package worth betting on with his tools as it all is very projectable while also offering a ton of upside.

It’s easy to see why people can be so divided on Korchinski. The good parts about his game are very good, while the bad parts of his game can be very bad. If you’re taking Korchinski based on his upside, you’ll have to be prepared for Korchinski to take a few years in the AHL to develop. His game needs a lot of polishing both in the neutral and defensive zones, and the panic that can overtake him under pressure will need to be worked out as well. Given time, however, Korchinski can be a top four defenseman capable of quarterbacking a power play unit.

Objectively, I’m looking for the right team to draft Korchinski. I have legitimate worries that he’ll get drafted by a team that will try and turn him into a shutdown defenseman due to his size and skating. He needs to play in a system that doesn’t rein in the defense, and I could see a team such as Carolina drafting him if they somehow acquire a pick in the first half of the second round. Give him free rein and he’ll become one of the better defensemen in the league. Rein him in, and you’re looking at a player that might not make it in the NHL.

I’d hesitate to draft Korchinski in the first round due to the amount of holes in his game at current. Had there been a full WHL season during the 2020-21 season, he would likely be further along in his development. As it stands right now, I’d prefer not to take him with my first round pick unless I’m picking in the 25-32 range. Realistically, I see Korchinski going in the early parts of day two of the draft. He’ll be a nice addition to a team that missed the playoffs this year as long as they’re willing to be patient and develop him properly.


Latest Update

January 18, 2022


stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Matthew Somma. If you would like to follow Matthew on Twitter, his handle is @Mattsomma12.

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