There’s a universe where Leafs fans are very upset that the team drafted Yegor Korshkov at #31 in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Korshkov was considered somewhat off the board. He’s a year older than most of his draft class, and was picked over highly touted prospects like Rasmus Asplund, Adam Mascherin, and perhaps most notably, OHL scoring sensation Alex DeBrincat.

With the benefit of a years hindsight, the decision doesn’t seem far off-base. Korshkov may not have been the absolute best pick at that spot, he’s shown glimpses of why the Leafs believed in him.

First, the vitals. Korshkov is long and lean, a right-winger measuring at a towering 6’4”, but only 193 lb. For reference, Tyler Bozak is listed at around the same weight but at just 6’1”. And no one will mistake Bozak for a physical presence anytime soon. So despite his size, don’t think of Korshkov as a hulking power forward. He’s willing to throw around his body (at least if you look at his hit totals), but his playmaking skills seem to be his main method of generating offense. Qualitatively, he has a reputation as a player who positions himself well, using his smooth stride to get him from point A to B.

Korshkov turned 21 in July, so all his stats last season were accumulated as a 20-year old. And those stats were quite impressive, as we’ll get to. He played for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, a KHL team located in Yaroslavl (duh), about 250km northeast of Moscow. If the team name sounds familiar, it’s probably because of the disaster they faced in September 2011, when their team plane crashed, killing all but one person onboard.

In recent years, Yaroslavl have been a relatively strong team, and last season was no different. They finished 5th in the KHL during the regular season, ultimately losing in the conference finals. Korshkov largely played on a line with Pavel Kraskovsky and Alexander Polunin, both of whom he has played with since his junior days. The three of them formed a solid 2nd/3rd line for Yaroslavl. Interestingly, the team’s first line included two former Leafs: Petri Kontiola and Brandon Kozun. It should be noted that Korshkov’s scoring pace (19 points in 36 games) was higher than both of his teammates (19 in 45 for Polunin, 18 in 58 for Kraskovsky). Korshkov was also the leading shot taker of his regular linemates, which seems to indicate that at the very least, he’s pulling his own weight on that line. He appears to have some penalty drawing ability too, as he was infringed 16 times, while taking 12 minor penalties.

As a 20-year- old, getting a regular KHL shift is a necessity if you’re a highly touted prospect. Nonetheless, it’s impressive that Korshkov was the 4th highest scorer by PPG on a very good KHL team. Korshkov also didn’t have an elevated shooting percentage boosting his stats (he shot 9% overall), and only one of his goals was on the power play (the KHL site doesn’t display even strength or power play assists). He evidently played some PK, because he scored a shorthanded goal, but how much is a mystery to me.

Korshkov’s overall scoring rate is made more impressive by the relatively low amount of ice time he got. When you adjust for playing time, his all situations P/60 was 2.43. That’s not at the level of the very top-end guys in the KHL (Vadim Shipachyov was at 5.16, and Evgeni Dadonov was at 4.37), but it’s quite solid, and comfortably top six level, from what I’ve seen. Pavel Datsyuk scored at 2.57 P/60 last season, for additional context.

At a broad level, what Korshkov did last year is very impressive, and shows he has a real shot at a North American pro career (I have confidence he’d be a good AHL player right now). There’s a lot to be positive about regarding Korshkov. However, there’s one item that may have given our voters some pause.

Korshkov broke his leg in December, resulting in him missing about 40% of the KHL season. He returned in time for the playoffs, but only scored 3 points in 15 games. The immediate conclusion to jump to is that he wasn’t fully recovered from his leg break. While that is totally possible, I can’t help but notice he only shot 3.6% during the KHL playoffs. He actually generated shots at the exact same rate as he did during the regular season. Maybe he was having trouble getting his usual power on his shots, maybe he was just getting some unfortunate puck luck, or maybe it was a combination of the two. I wouldn’t worry too much about that injury, at this point. Until we see more play, I’m going to trust that he’ll recover well, and continue growing as a player.

So with all that being said, let’s turn our attention to how the voting broke down for Korshkov.

I voted him at 21st overall, with Katya (who almost certainly saw him the most of any of the voters) and Jared being the most bullish on him. Scott Wheeler and Annie were the least convinced, as he just barely made Scott’s list, and didn’t make Annie’s.

I think Korshkov could have easily been ranked higher. There’s a real visibility bias among voters (myself included) and it’s hard to take a real stand on a player you’re only judging through YouTube clips, boxscores, and slightly out of date scouting reports. Korshkov had an impressive year, despite relative stagnation of his ranking, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he took another step forward this year and made us all look dumb.

Realistically, that’s what he’ll have to do to pencil himself into the Leafs NHL plans. KHL production is great (and at his age, it’s impressive), but the NHL difference makers didn’t just perform well in the KHL, they lit it on fire. If Korshkov does so, then the 2016 draft has its cherry on top of the cake.

Yegor Korshkov via EliteProspects

2011-2012Barys Astana-2Kazakhstan326101622
2012-2013Lokomotiv Yaroslavl U17Russia U17 Finals63364
Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U17Russia U173322254760
2013-2014Loko YaroslavlMHL4312102222
Russia U18 |WJAC-19|WJAC-1952130
Russia U18WJC-1851014
Russia U18 (all)International-Jr133254
2014-2015Lokomotiv YaroslavlKHL241234
Loko YaroslavlMHL2313152818
Russian Selects U20Jr Super Series40338
Russia U20 (all)International-Jr704412
2015-2016Lokomotiv YaroslavlKHL41661223
Loko YaroslavlMHL42466
Russia U20WJC-20726816
Russia (all)International10000
2016-2017Lokomotiv YaroslavlKHL366131924
Loko YaroslavlMHL20004
2017-2018Lokomotiv YaroslavlKHL-----
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