The Leafs surprised pretty much everyone with the so-called off the board pick of Yegor Korshkov, an overage Russian forward from the KHL taken with the second round pick at number 31 in the 2016 draft.
Who is he?
First, the name thing. His name is Егор Коршков. And that gets romanized most often as Yegor Korshkov, and that is the form the official English site of the KHL uses. But I've seen Igor, Egor, Korschkov and Korchkov, so like a lot of Russians, he is a man of many names.
Second, the age thing. He was born on July 10, and he will turn 20 in a few days.
Third, the size thing. The KHL lists him as 192 and 81, which for those of us used to American ways of measuring is 6' 3.5" and 178.5 lbs. That's Martin Marincin's height and Michael Grabner's weight.
I'm not sure how old that picture is; it's his official KHL mugshot, but he suddenly seems less big as soon as you look at it, so maybe the meme that the Leafs drafted for size is oversimplifying things a little.
Before we dig into his history, take a look at a highlight from the World Junior Championship this year. This was from Russia's win over the USA and Auston Matthews in the semi finals.
Where did he come from?
Russia, obviously. Except, not exactly.
His father is Alexei Korshkov, and his birthplace, like Yegor's, is listed as Novosibirsk, Russia, but Alexei lived and played hockey for a long time in neighbouring Kazakhstan and has represented that country internationally. If Novosibirsk sounds familiar, that's because it was there that Nikita Zaitsev found himself going unnoticed until he moved to Moscow to play for CSKA. It is very far east into Siberia, almost to Mongolia.
Alexei, by the way, is a 6'5" defenceman, who was still playing hockey as recently as 2012 at age 38. He is listed at 247 lbs. So the potential is certainly there for Yegor to get big.
So he played in Siberia?
Yegor played in Kazakhstan when he was young, and did one year at age 15 in the junior system of Barys Astana in that country. Then he moved to Yaroslavl, home of the Lokomotiv hockey club. Yaroslavl is about a four hour drive outside Moscow and is worlds away from where he came from.
He played one year on the Lokomotiv U17 team, and then at the age of 17 moved directly to their MHL team for the 2013-2014 season. The MHL is Russia's major junior league, and is the primary feeder system to the KHL. Loko Yaroslavl was the best team in the MHL that year.
Korshkov did well enough in his first MHL season, and was ranked 11th on his team in scoring behind players mostly two to three years older.
There was one exception. Outplaying him then was Pavel Kraskovsky, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the summer of 2014 in the sixth round.
Korshkov also represented Russia in the IIHF U18 tournament that year where he scored one goal as his only point and didn't garner much notice.
He went undrafted that summer.
In 2014-2015 he took a huge step forward as young players often do.
He played 23 games in the MHL, putting up points to match what he'd needed 43 games to achieve the previous year. Lokomotiv tried him on the KHL squad where he had 3 points in 24 games. He played in some U20 games for Russia, but was not on their 2015 WJC roster.
Nobody wanted to draft him that summer either.
In 2015-2016 he took a leap forward.
He was a full time KHL player on Lokomotiv, who were the third-ranked team in the tougher West Conference. Korshkov played around 10 minutes per game, usually with Kraskovsky and Alexander Polunin, and they were a very good sneaky fourth line that scored like a third line. Korshkov beat Kraskovsky in points finally, but only just.
After Lokomotiv was dispatched in the first round of the playoffs, the team sent their junior line back to Loko in the MHL where they tore up the playoffs as the top line and took the championship. Korshkov led the league in playoff points and was second in points per game for regular players.
The playoffs weren't their first outing as a dominant junior line. They were Russia's top line at the WJC, and it was Finland's ability to shut them down in the final game that was the edge that gave them the gold medal, leaving Russia unsatisfied with the silver. Korshkov had eight points in seven games and was Russia's leading scorer.
They were so overshadowed by the Finnish superline that few casual fans noticed them. Scouts were noticing Korshkov, however. He told the Russian press that more than one NHL team was interested in him and had scouted him in Finland.
The Korshkov line are all under contract with Lokomotiv for a couple of years, and they will be able to develop there together, move up the lineup and get more ice time in the best pro league outside the NHL. The assistant coach is Yevgeni Namestnikov, the same occasional part-time Leafs scout that brought Nikita Soshnikov to the team's attention.
By drafting Korshkov so high, by drafting him at all, the Leafs are betting that he's going to keep developing into a player that can move into the NHL someday. They have the flexibility to bring him to Toronto and play him in the AHL whenever they think he's ready—which his KHL contract would likely allow—or they have the luxury of letting him stay in Russia for as long as four years without losing his rights.
This coming season he'll have two new NHL-experienced teammates: Brandon Kozun and Max Talbot.
Korshkov shouldn't be confused with Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi, teenagers who played on top lines on elite teams in a men's league and scored at a high rate. He has proved he was way too overpowered for junior hockey; he seems to be outstripping Kraskovsky in development; and he is more than adequate on a top KHL team at 19.
There is a lot of potential there, and the Leafs have opened a door for him. He just needs to walk through it. His coming season in Russia should show if he's got the talent to go farther than the KHL or not.