The NHL Draft is coming up quickly and the San Jose Sharks fall just out of the top-10 in the first round, selecting 11th overall. Ahead of the draft, we’ll profile a handful of players who should be available, and make a case for the team to draft them ... or run the other way.
Kevin Korchinski, D — Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL
Weight: 185 lbs.
Age at Draft: 18
2021-2022 Regular Season: 67 GP, 4 G, 61 A, .97 PPG
2022 WHL Playoffs: 23 GP, 6 G, 12 A, .83 PPG
THE SCOUTING REPORTS
“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.”
— Matthew Somma Smaht Scouting
“As a mover, Korchinski is at his best when he is able to use his edges to push laterally. An effortless four-way mover, he is extremely unpredictable and difficult to contain as he avoids pressure at the point and works his way into the middle to help breakdown defensive zone coverage.”
— McKeen’s Hockey (paywall)
THE CASE AGAINST
Drafting for need is a terrible idea, especially when prospects can take four or five years to actually make an impact — needs can change. The Sharks need to add quality prospects to the blue line, but can’t risk forgoing high-end forwards in the same spot. Doug Wilson Jr. has shown that he will take the best available player, regardless of position, and if that means drafting nine forwards in the same draft, then so be it.
There are questions about Korchinski’s decision-making (especially under pressure) and if his ceiling is as high as some of the defenders ranked around him in Pavel Mintyukov and Denton Mateychuk, those players may still provide more offensive upside than Korchinski. That isn’t to say that Korchinski is a stay-at-home defender — scoring at an almost point-per-game pace in one’s draft season is very impressive, but his WHL team is really good, making the WHL Finals.
Korchinski is a safe pick that won’t get Wilson fired, but looking back in a few years, he may not have been the best player available.
THE CASE FOR
The Sharks have spent a lot of draft capital trying to infuse forward talent into the line-up and that is starting to bear fruit. William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau are expected to be competing for a job with the mother club this season, while Ozzy Wiesblatt, Tristen Robins, Brandon Coe and Daniil Gushchin will likely be playing full-time with the San Jose Barracuda this upcoming season.
San Jose has made intriguing defensive picks in Gannon Laroque, Santeri Hatakka and Artemi Kniazev over the last few years. The team hasn’t invested a top pick on a defenseman since 2018, when the team drafted Ryan Merkley. Adding a player like Korchinski would be a massive investment on the blue line and arguably would be the organization’s second-best prospect.
Korchinski was fourth among WHL defensemen in points as a rookie. He ranked second in defensemen assists (61) and third in power play assists (28). While one would probably like to see a little more in the goals department, he netted more goals in the playoffs (6) than he did in the regular season (4). It’s there and it will continue to grow.
Korchinski has been compared to players like Shea Theodore, Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug. The 17-year-old may not have the highest ceiling, but adding a defender like Korchinski can help to solidify a defensive core that is expected to see some major changes for the first time in a long time. Korchinski should be able to quarterback a power play, maintain solid defense and be a top-four defender for the next 10 years.
San Jose hasn’t drafted a defenseman in the first round who went on to play 200 NHL games (usually considered the threshold of being an NHL player) since …
Brad Stuart in 1998!
Here’s where there others stand:
- Ryan Merkley (2018) — 39 games
- Mirco Muller (2013) — 185 games
- Nick Petrecki (2007) — 1 game
- Ty Wishart (2006) — 26 games
- Jeff Jillson (1999) — 140 games
The Sharks have done a great job of focusing on the forwards, but it’s time to spend real assets on modern NHL defensemen who can help solidify a shakey blue line for years to come. He isn’t the sexiest pick, but adding a player of Korchinski’s talent is the smart one.