I promise I won’t mention Alex DeBrincat in this post. Dammit, I just mentioned DeBrincat. Crap. I mentioned DeBrincat again. Okay, fine. After this introduction I will be done with mentioning DeBrincat, a player that a good number of us thought was an excellent fit for the Leafs at the 31st overall pick in 2016. The fact that the Leafs had the whole night to think about who they were going to pick coming out of the first round justly had many people thinking either DeBrincat or Girard or Hart (for what it’s worth I was a Hart guy.) And if you weren’t high on one of those players you might have thought Benson, Kyrou or Dahlen. Even some other picks like Grundstrom, Asplund, Laberge, Mascherin, Krys, Katchouk, Clague, or Dube had more excitement attached to them at that point, but hey, Korshkov can still prove a lot of that crowd wrong.
The point being, we all understand at this point that Korshkov was an absolutely bizarre pick, and it was very likely that he could have been had with the Leafs late 2nd round pick or even one of their mid round picks. This debate is over, but it still seems like all of this needs to be said every single time that Korshkov is being brought up. We are not judging him by where he was picked or who could have been picked, we’re judging him by where he’s at as a prospect. Now I will type DeBrincat one more time to get it out of my system.
TLN Ranking from 2018: 14th
Drafted: 2016 2nd round (31st overall)
Why is Korshkov in this tier?
The quickest and most correct answer to that question is that no one is really going to feel 100% confident in him until we see more over him in North America. There’s also the fact that despite being a high pick that makes us hold him to a higher standard, we only got 19 regular season KHL games out him last year, 9 post season KHL games, and 9 AHL playoff games to judge him by. None of which saw him exhibit any substantial offense, and in fact that’s something we haven’t seen much of at any point in his post draft career. His 5 points in 19 regular season KHL games last season is worrisome. His one goal in 9 games with the Marlies is less so, but Korshkov is now 23 years old, and while he has offensive talent beyond his numbers, they are yet to be demonstrated, and it seems like the next two years will be about seeing if he can establish himself as a competent bottom six forward.
Do I really have to do this again this year? Please read last year’s instead. I assure you I was thorough and absolutely didn’t compare him 2016 draftees* (*this is not true)
There are those Korshkov numbers I was telling you about earlier. Not at all pretty.
The KHL website tells a bit more of a full story on Korshkov, who basically held flat for ice time in 2018-19 from his previous season at 13:57 minutes a night. He had an improved shooting percentage at 11.5%, but wound up shooting less. He’s good for one hit per game, and doesn’t take penalties. If the players didn’t have to sign in when they entered the building it seems like there would be very little record that Korshkov has been playing hockey, and given his injury challenges last season, a lot of the time he wasn’t.
Dammit, I really feel like I’m pounding away on this guy, and KHL numbers can be a difficult egg to crack, and that’s probably what gives me a lot of remaining hope. Here’s a more optimistic scouting report on Korshkov from Dobberprospects.com:
February 2019 – Korshkov has returned to the lineup and has racked up four points in 14 games so far. This isn’t a flashy total, but he has displayed good finish in tight and a capable one-timer, plus a big frame gives him the tools to play pro in North America next year if he decides to leave Russia. Hayden Soboleski
If that doesn’t do it for you, he’s still 6’4 all day every day.
The best case scenario
Well, the reports say that he can skate, has the smarts, has the hands, and we definitely know he has the size, but even in the best case scenario I can’t see it coming together so quickly for him that we aren’t talking about a significant stint with the Marlies to start off his North American pro career. The fact that he’ll have a fellow new Russian in Toronto with him in Ilya Mikheyev probably helps the transition, even if there’s a good chance that Mikheyev could immediately be a Leaf.
The best case scenario for Korshkov is that he has enough ability to play a reliable complimentary role in the middle six part of the Leafs forward group starting in 2020 or shortly there after. It seems like there might be tight timelines attached to Korshkov succeeding as his KHL contract had to be richer than the AHL money attached to his entry level deal with the Leafs. He’s under contract for two years, but if things don’t go as well as we’re hoping, it could be a very short stint for Korshkov in Toronto. Which probably brings us to…
The worst case scenario
Not every overseas player adjusts to North America. You’re away from home, it’s a different culture, your friends and family are fast asleep when you want to reach out to them for support and that’s the stuff off the ice before you start dealing with your coach not speaking your language, the ice being a different size, and players are taught and developed very differently here. It seems like the cards are inherently stacked against players like Korshkov who is also having to live up to the unreasonable expectations many of us have attached to him because of the situation in which he was drafted. The absolute worst case scenario could be that we learn by the end of camp that the Korshkov experiment is over, and the player and team mutually agree to cut ties with one another.
Can you believe I told myself I was going to be nice about Korshkov this time and I ended up writing all that? I honestly feel bad, because I really want to look at this season as a clean slate. I’m excited to see what Egor can do with the Marlies, and see if his hands and hockey sense live up to the bill of goods that Mark Hunter sold us.
There is absolutely a need a player like Korshkov who can establish himself down low in the offensive zone and not just hit the tap-in, but also have the IQ to quickly see the other players who might be better options. He might not be a physical presence or have the power to be too imposing at this point, but he’s an interesting canvas for the Leafs to begin developing now that they finally have him in their system.
Korshkov is a player who is going to be defined by buy-in. Has he bought into the idea of playing for the Leafs someday even if that means that he’s going to spend some significant time with the Marlies?
And have the Leafs bought in to Korshkov, even though he could be regarded as a Mark Hunter/Lou Lamoriello pick that they can move on from with little objection from fans. As long as the Leafs still see some upside I’d have to imagine they’ll be working hard to get Korshkov competitive fast, and while there hasn’t been much to date to be excited about, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be.