Despite draft skepticism, Yegor Korshkov is finding his groove in the KHL

korshk

Even as somebody who often spends their mornings catching up to the ongoings of the KHL, I was a little shocked when the Toronto Maple Leafs announced Yegor Korshkov as their 31st overall selection. Shocked might even be a generous word; I was straight up disappointed. After all, a lot of “scores all the points” darlings like Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat (who just signed his ELC yesterday) players were still on the podium, and here the Leafs were using the highest second round pick possible on an overager that had twelve points in what would usually be his Draft+1.

But I warmed up to the selection a little bit as time progressed, and as I’ve done that, Korshkov has heated up.

Turning Points

In fairness, Korshkov’s season didn’t exactly start off red-hot. In fact, he was held off the scoresheet entirely for his first five games, before rallying back with an extremely impressive three-assist effort against Spartak Moscow on September 26th. That was the start of a bit of a tear for the youngster, in which he had two goals and seven assists in eight games leading up to October 10th. Once again, Korshkov has found a degree of chemistry with regular linemates Pavel Kraskovsky (Winnipeg) and Alexander Polunin (undrafted) on Lokomotiv’s kid line; and now that they’ve earned a degree of trust from their coaches, they’ve been allowed to play more significant offensive minutes.

Put into context

As it stands, Korshkov is having one of the most offensively impressive Age-20 seasons of any KHLer to date. Since the league’s opening year in 2008/09, only eight skaters have had a higher points-per-game at the same age. Many of these eight have become bonafide NHLers (Vladimir Tarasenko at 1, Evegeny Kuznetsov at 2, Artemi Panarin at 7, and Rangers rookie Pavel Buchnevich at 5), some are still waiting for their shot (Islanders prospect Anatoly Golyshev at 3, Kings prospect and potential Leafs interest Nikolai Prokhorkin at 4), while a couple are lesser knowns (Ziyat Paigin at 6, Emil Galimov at 8). 

Here’s how that group of nine stacks up, and, for reference, where the others were at come the 25 game mark of their seasons.

Player GP G A PTS PTS/G GP G A PTS PTS/G
Vladimir Tarasenko 54 23 24 47 0.87 25 10 12 22 0.88
Evgeny Kuznetsov 51 19 25 44 0.86 25 9 13 22 0.88
Anatoly Golyshev 56 25 19 44 0.79 25 13 9 22 0.88
Nikolai Prokhorkin 52 19 18 37 0.71 25 10 8 18 0.72
Pavel Buchnevich 58 16 21 37 0.64 25 6 12 18 0.72
Ziyat Paigin 45 9 19 28 0.62 25 3 8 11 0.44
Artemi Panarin 50 13 18 31 0.62 25 7 9 16 0.64
Emil Gailmov 33 7 13 20 0.61 25 5 10 15 0.6
Yegor Korshkov 25 4 10 14 0.56 25 4 10 14 0.56

In something that runs relatively consistent with pretty much every league ever, there isn’t a significant uptick in the back half of the season, save for Paigin’s late-season run last year. If anything, a few players see slight dips in the back-end of the year, likely due to general wear and tear and teams being more prone to match against them.

You would think that young kids that come out of nowhere to start producing would get an uptick in minutes as the year progresses, but the fact of the matter is that it takes an impressive talent to even make it into the league at that age. Younger players are usually placed on the roster simply to fill requirements and aren’t trusted, which means that to get regular minutes from the start, you either have to be very good or on a smaller-market team.

Korshkov is a bit in the middle, in that regard. He’s got a veteran’s body, towering in at over 6’3 and 185 pounds. He plays for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who have made valiant efforts to rebuild in the years following the tragic plane crash that killed their entire team back in 2011, but still aren’t in the same tier as say, SKA St. Petersburg or CSKA Moscow, who remain the league’s powerhouses. This means that they have to get creative with their acquisitions, and that includes having a second line of 19 to 20-year-olds. Funnily enough, Lokomotiv’s two highest-profile veteran forwards are ex-Leafs Brandon Kozun and Petri Kontiola, with Kozun making waves in the KHL scoring race.

While Korshkov isn’t exactly putting up the same numbers as some of the high-flying scorers on the list, the fact that he’s in the conversation is encouraging; especially given that his responsibility goes beyond putting the puck in the net. Outside of the points that he’s put up, he’s drawn penalties in more games (8) than he’s taken them (6), he’s delivered a little more than a hit per game, has only gone through three games without taking a shot on goal, and has generally made himself a noteworthy contributor for his club as they attempt to hold onto home ice advantage come playoff time.

He’s even getting some attention from the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. He, along with Kraskovsky, was recently named to the Karjala Cup roster. While the individual tournament doesn’t really have much North American clout, it is part of the “European Hockey Tour” that you find associated with many Russian, Finnish, Swedish, and Czech players, and in many cases like Korshkov’s, is the initial stepping stone for players looking to represent their country at the adult level. A good showing in a few of these mini-tournaments could give him a chance at playing in the World Championships, which would be a stellar come up.

For now, we still don’t know where Korshkov’s future lies. He’s still very raw and in an early stage in the development spectrum, and with the depth that the Leafs have up front, they’re in no rush to answer the question. But as it stands, the fact that he is contributing at an above-the-curve level for his age and a solid level for any KHLer so soon after the questions of draft day is definitely encouraging.

  • Anthony Collins

    ‘But I warmed up to the selection a little bit as time progressed, and as I’ve done that, Korshkov has heated up.’

    Perhaps next time, we should give more credit to the scouts on the road doing this vs a guy who does it as a hobby on his couch?

    • Jeff Veillette

      I mean, the ones doing this as a hobby from their couch provided alternatives that are ripping it up just as much, if not more so, and have consistently done so in the past few years. NHL teams are using some of these couch-guys in tandem with the eye guys. Scouts obviously still have value when trying to figure out how a player ties into your organization’s playstyles and development curves. Finding a balance between the two is key, though if you had to choose one, historical data has been pretty successful.

      I’m happy he’s exceeded my own expectation through 25 games. I hope that continues. I still don’t know if he was the absolute best pick at 31, but it’s really not at the stage of the game where it’s worth arguing one way or another. Nor do I seriously believe it will be.

      Anyway, the point here is to say that Korshkov is progressing well, not have an argument about nerds vs. scouts.

      • Anthony Collins

        If we’re going to play that card, lets play that card.

        You are not one of those guys thou Jeff. Cam Charron was one of those guys, he’s gone. The guys from Vancouver hired by Florida where those guys. Your not one of those guys. Stop grouping yourself with them.

        • Jeff Veillette

          I’m aware that I’m not one of those guys, and I’m not trying to sell myself as one of those guys. You made a general statement and I responded to it.

          Unless your original statement was 100% pointed at me, in which case, I don’t really know what to tell you. My overarching statement after draft day wasn’t really positive or negative, just that I wasn’t sure what their direction was and that’s okay for now. This player, who I described as an “interesting” pick on draft day and didn’t throw under the bus, has exceeded my expectations through a few months. Now I’m giving him credit for that.

          What would you like me to do? Stop talking because I am not what you’d like me to be on either end of the spectrum?

          • Anthony Collins

            Yes you are, by saying….

            ‘I mean, the ones doing this as a hobby from their couch provided alternatives that are ripping it up just as much, if not more so, and have consistently done so in the past few years’

            As a way to justify your comments. You can’t use the actions of others to justify your reaction and knowledge. I called you a guy on a couch, you then said guys on couches do better than NHL guys, and that’s true, except your not one of them, so using them as a way to justify your couch status is silly. NHLers are from Toronto, so am I, that doesn’t mean I now use NHL skaters to justify why I’m great at hockey.

            If you don’t think the inial comment was fair, then say ‘i never said i didn’t like him’, instead of ‘couch guys have been hired by NHL teams therefore because I am a couch guy, i can’t be questioned’. It doesn’t work that way.

          • Jeff Veillette

            I thought you were writing off couch-guys on the whole, not specifically pointing fingers at myself. I’ll be the first to tell you that prospects are still something I’m getting a grip on. My apologies.

          • Anthony Collins

            It wasn’t against ‘couch guys’ who know what they are doing, it was towards yourself. The Leafs have so many smart analytical thinkers there, why wouldn’t we give them credit?

            Look at my post again, doesn’t it make sense to give guys who have all the work that Charron et al at their disposal and Mark Hunter’s acumen make good pics? You took it way to personal to break it down and think about the actual words. You yourself said you doubted it, well why, Charron is smarter than all of us with this stuff. They have Charron’s data, of course they will make smart pics. May not work out but they know more than any of us.

          • Richard

            I don’t think I would waste my time discussing this with him Jeff…..you made some excellent points and I don’t think intelligence is determined by what a person is sitting on or not sitting at all……..

          • macqus

            People criticized Cam Charron all the time, and now he works for the Leafs, so the “you’re not working for a team, so you shouldn’t doubt the scouts” argument doesn’t carry much weight. Jeff never said “I’m a couch guy who should be running a team,” anyway. Not sure why you’re making a big deal out of this. Pretty boring blog if you can’t have an opinion.

          • Anthony Collins

            Sure, but that was 3 years ago and he was doing some revolutionary stuff, Jeff doesn’t to that, you cannot compare the two. I was half joking but since it’s now an issue, Jeff cannot put himself in the same group as ‘those couch scouts’ that made strong draft picks because he’s not doing what they did. He admits as much. He can’t say ‘couch guys did it’ and use that as a shield to protect himself from criticism, like I said, it’s like me defending my lack of hockey skills by saying ‘Toronto has NHL players, therefore I’m good at hockey’. One doesn’t have anything to do with the other.

            I just don’t get why someone who admits he’s somewhat new and still learning when it comes to prospects doubt those who have done it for years and have Cam Charron’s data. If you want to do prospect profiles, bring on someone to do prospect profiles, don’t say ‘I’m still learning, doubt Charron and the scouts, and then act like is a surprise they where right.

          • Erik Gruber

            Being inexperienced should not stop you from questioning the decisions of people more experienced than you. In fact I would argue it is a very important step in furthering your knowledge on the subject.

        • LukeDaDrifter

          Certainly there is nothing wrong with Debrincat. At the time of the draft though the Leafs already had about five prospects with similar size and skill. While size isn’t as important as it used to be teams need to have some size. I felt they may have been drafting a top checking forward straight out, rather than drafting an offensive guy then trying to turn him into a checker. Let’s not forget before the season started no one was sure if Marner was going to make the team or go back again to junior. Debrincat will carry that question until he proves different.

    • Jeff Veillette

      I’m pretty sure both of us, since Quinn shares my interest in European hockey, at some point down the road figured out how to click the “Age 20, KHL” button on QuantHockey.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Yegor Korshkov was rated around 110th on a lot of draft prospect lists. So having Hunter picking him up a #31 had to have surprised a lot of us. To answer the question of why, I looked back at last years draft. Hunter’s team hit on almost everyone they picked. All but one exceeded expectations. This year even that one they seem to have missed on in the 7th round is excelling.

    The big question though why pick him so early when it looked likely he would still be on the board later? I can think of only two reasons. Hunter’s team truly believed he was the next best prospect, or they suspected someone else was going to grab him before they had a second opportunity.

    With Hunter’s team’s reputation, even though I never heard of the guy, I felt confident they had picked a player with above average NHL potential. As Jeff has pointed out it is starting to look like the pick was a good one. After all the KHL is considered one step below the NHL. So to average just over a half a point per game at 20 years of age is looking sweet.