Names To Know: WHL Defenseman Kevin Korchinski Would Bolster The Blue Jackets' Blue Line Potential

By Ed Francis on May 23, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Another day, another installment of 'Names To Know', a look-ahead at prospects that the Columbus Blue Jackets are certain to be looking into in advance of July's NHL Draft.

With two of the first dozen selections — picks #6 and #12 overall — no team has a higher second selection in the first draft than the Blue Jackets. In a balanced pool of players, it gives the organization a ton of flexibility in July's draft. 

So far, we've taken a look at both Simon Nemec and David Jiricek — long considered the top two defensemen available in the draft. Neither player is likely to still be on the board at #12, but here's a name who might be: Kevin Korchinski of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. He's had a meteoric rise up some draft charts and has forced his way into the conversation as one of the top defensemen in the draft. 

Korchinski's rise has been in part the result of a record-breaking season with the Thunderbirds. While the stat line is a secondary reference for most defensemen, look at the jump Korchinski has made between last season and this season with Seattle:

2020-21 regular season: 23 games, 0 goals, 10 assists, 10 points, 0.43 points per game

2021-22 regular season: 67 games, 4 goals, 61 assists, 65 points, 0.97 points per game

2021-22 postseason: 14 games, 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points, 0.93 points per game

Those 61 apples in the regular season are the most by a defenseman in the WHL in 32 years, but it was his playoff performanc (both on the score sheet and for his play without the puck) that really generated buzz. When you considering the numbers from the previous season, that is a mind-warping amount of growth in a short period of time. The growth is as literal as it is figurative: Korchinski is still just 17 (he'll be 18 by July's draft) but is already 6'2" and 190lbs.

How high is his stock rising? Here's what The Sporting News said on Korchinski just last month:

Another big riser within the top-10 is Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Kevin Korchinski. The blueliner has entered the conversation for the top defender available in this class and is nipping at the heels of the top five. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, either.

Korchinski is like a hurricane that gets out over warm waters in the middle of August — rapidly developing with no signs of slowing down. The skating is there, the vision is there, the confidence is there, the size is there, the puck handling is there. The one knock on him has been that he sometimes tries to do too much. That's not the worst problem in the world, and one that can easily be fixed given his age and experience. 

Where Korchinski ends up being drafted is certainly something the Blue Jackets will need to keep a close eye on. He's rising fast, and while his rankings below would seem to hint that he's available at #12, that becomes less likely almost by the hour. Plus, after going with a forward in two of their three first-rounders from last summer's draft, it would seem unlikely they go forwards with both picks this season. Whether it's six or twelve, Columbus seems destined to pick up a defenseman at least once in the opening round this July. 

Mock Draft Results 10th
Tankathon 13th
The Athletic 10th
My NHL Draft 12th*
The Sporting News 19th

*To Columbus