A year(-ish) into playing in North America it seems that it’s finally possible to have a bit of a discussion on Korshkov on his own merits rather than making it about the circumstances in which he was drafted. What we’ve learned from his five and a half months of AHL hockey is that Korshkov likely has a future in the NHL, and possibly in the very near future.
Korshkov had a strong AHL rookie season putting up 16 goals in 44 games, numbers that are beyond anything he accomplished in the KHL. Korshkov also added 9 assists, and finished 7th on the Marlies in points, and 3rd on the Marlies in goals. The catch to all this is that Korshkov played only 44 games, and his injury issues from Russia seem to have come with him.
Perhaps the most encouraging stat from his time with the Marlies is that Korshkov had 2 short handed goals, leading the team. Korshkov has thrived in that shorthanded role throughout his career, and could be one of the key factors in bringing him to the Leafs sooner rather than later.
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.
One of the biggest changes over the past season is the amount of weight that Korshkov has added to his frame. Korshkov has added about 20 lbs and has begun filling out his 6’4 frame. Given his shorthanded abilities, secondary goal scoring, and Russian birth certificate, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Nikolai Kulemin now, and that’s a skillset the Leafs could certainly benefit from in their mid to bottom six part of their forward group. Both Korshkov and Engvall help add some size to the Leafs forward group, which along with Hyman, Kapanen, and (assuming he returns) Kyle Clifford, the Leafs have more size and physical presence than they have had since the Quinn years.
Korshkov will probably also benefit from being surrounded by other Russians. With Barabanov, and Mikheyev likely to be on the Leafs roster as well next season, it’s entirely possible he’ll have a linemate who speaks his language, and the Leafs continue to become a more comfortable and appealing place for Russians to play and develop which will also probably benefit future Leafs like Mikhail Abramov, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, and possibly Vladislav Kara.
In his one game audition with the Leafs last season Korshkov picked up a goal in his ten minutes of ice time. He didn’t look out of place in that game, and the Leafs wing depth wasn’t what it was/is, it would have been nice to see more of him last season. The thing is that wing depth is still the challenge for Korshkov heading into 2020-21 as well, with Marner, Nylander, Hyman, Kapanen, Mikheyev, Johnsson currently sitting as the incumbents for the top nine, and with Barabanov and possibly Spezza and Clifford looking as the fourth line and depth options there really isn’t a spot for Korshkov at the moment. This is also assuming that Kerfoot and Engvall will be in center roles. Something seems likely to give, especially with that top nine depth, but Korshkov still doesn’t have an easy path as he’ll be competing with Agostino and Petan as well, and possibly Robertson and Abramov for a spot. While Korshkov is good, it’s a matter of whether his time will come immediately or he’s still going to need to put in work in the AHL.
My guess is that Korshkov’s penalty killing work will set him apart and could help him force his way into a 4th line role with a penalty killing side gig. The interesting story of the offseason will probably be who departs to make that possible.