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.
It’s nearly June and I’ve done a complete 180 on Korchinski. We ranked him 13th in our final rankings and wouldn’t have argued if he found his way a few picks higher, either. When I originally wrote this profile, I felt that Korchinski was still figuring things out and coming into his own. Now, it’s clear that he’s one of the best defenders in the CHL and in this draft class, too. He’s an elite skater with the ability to command control of the offensive game both in transition and in the offensive zone. There are few defenders able to work with the puck as well as Korchinski can given his top notch skating and hockey sense. I’m much more confident in Korchinski’s upside now. Yes, he’ll still have the occasional turnover that will frustrate you, but his game is much more polished and well-rounded thanks to a full season of games.
D.O.B – June 21, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
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.
Korchinski’s puck carrying is one of his biggest strengths. He’s one of two high end offensive defensemen in the WHL that are eligible for the draft, with the other being Denton Mateychuk. Whereas Mateychuk is an all out offensive defenseman that has to make the offense flow through him, Korchinski is more grounded and stable. He’s not going to be a fourth forward, but he’s a player that can help keep the offense going and open up space for both himself and his teammates. He’s a general when he’s on the ice. Korchinski will dictate the pace of play and assess every opportunity, choosing the best one. He’ll keep the cycle going and walk the blue line with a Joni Pitkanen level of smoothness. Over the course of the year, Korchinski’s puck playing has developed and has made him one of the best defensemen in the league in the offensive zone. He’s a gifted skater, and when you combine that with his puck skills, you get a defender that can consistently create space and offense.
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. There are still times when Korchinski can panic under pressure and force a pass that isn’t there, but his game is much smoother now at the end of the year than it was in January.
Korchinski’s passing has improved over the course of the year and has helped him become a more reliable 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 posesses the ability to slow things down and take the less risky approach if there is a need to. I mentioned earlier that he’s a general when he’s on the ice, and it’s true. Korchinski knows when to attack and when to ease up on the pressure so as to not sacrifice defensive play. 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 has the ability to slow the play down in order to avoid making a mistake or turning the puck over.
Earlier in the year, I questioned Korchinski’s hockey sense. That was mostly due to the fact that he would have lapses in judgment and turn the puck over in the most frustrating ways possible. It’s less of a concern now than it was when I originally wrote the scouting report. He has been one of the biggest risers on draft boards this season and it’s because his game has developed at such a rapid pace. He went from a tantalizing “what if” prospect to as close to a sure thing as you can get.
Three questions I have about Korchinski’s projectability:
- Is he going to be able to control the pace of play at the NHL level?
- How will he adapt to a more physical league?
- How will he keep his composure when there is less time to make a decision?
The NHL is a different beast entirely, and while some WHL teams play an NHL style, there’s a massive gap in the level of competition. These questions I have aren’t going to make or break Korchinski, but they’re going to be points where he may struggle early on in his NHL career. With less time to make decisions, Korchinski is going to have to react to plays quickly and maintain his composure. Earlier in the season, I wouldn’t have been convinced that Korchinski could handle such challenges. After watching him for the entire season, however, he’s proven that he’s able to adapt and make changes quickly.
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 occasionally overtake him under pressure will need to be worked out as well. Given time, however, Korchinski can be a top four, maybe even top pairing defenseman capable of quarterbacking a power play unit. 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 be as impactful in the NHL.
Admittedly, I was wrong about Korchinski early on this year. I saw the occasional bad play and refused to see the entirety of his game. At this point, I’m confident that Korchinski goes in the top 15 of the 2022 draft and it wouldn’t surprise me if he sneaks into the top ten. As someone that has followed the Hurricanes for a long time, Korchinski reminds me a bit of Joni Pitkanen in the way that he plays in the offensive zone and Noah Hanifin in the way that he skates both in transition and on the blue line. Korchinski will make a team very happy when they select him.
May 25, 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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