Knights On Ice’s 2019-20 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. Six Knights On Ice writers created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final ballot.
The Vegas Golden Knights certainly have no shortage of promising young defensemen in their pipeline. Nicolas Hague, Zach Whitecloud and Jimmy Schuldt are all close to earning an extended look with the big club — one of whom could earn a full-time roster spot as early as this coming season.
But the blueline depth doesn’t end there. In fact, Kaedan Korczak, 18, may not be all that far behind them. Though he still requires an extra bit of seasoning, the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) defender is a highly intriguing prospect as Vegas begins to promote its young talent.
No. 14: Kaedan Korczak
Age: 18 (January 29, 2001)
Size: 6-foot-2, 192 pounds
Korczak, a native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, was selected by the Golden Knights in the second round (No. 41 overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. After a 16-point season in 2017-18, Korczak more than doubled that point total in his draft year, collecting four goals and 33 points in 68 games for the Rockets — good for the second-most points by a Kelowna defenseman last season behind only Lassi Thomson (a first-round draft selection by the Ottawa Senators). Despite commonly being labeled a “defensive defenseman”, Korczak finished 2018-19 very strong in the scoring department with 11 points (10 of which were assists) in his final 12 games of the season.
It’s unrealistic to expect Shea Theodore-like production out of Korczak when he eventually earns an opportunity in the NHL. However, he did flash some legitimate offensive creativity at times in the WHL last season, which could be a good sign as he continues to round out his game.
At the end of the day, though, offense isn’t necessarily Korczak’s bread and butter (though he did earn some time on the power play last season). As a 6-foot-2, 192-pound teenager, it should come as no surprise that Korczak thrives in the defensive zone — especially when it comes to denying enemy players from entering the offensive zone. Korczak can close in quickly on opposing skaters, thanks largely to his range and surprisingly good skating.
The clip below serves as a good example of this. Spokane Chiefs winger Connor Gabruch attempts to dangle his way along the half boards in the offensive zone, but Korczak hip checks him to the ice and forces the puck loose. Korczak’s teammate retrieves the puck and manufactures a breakout pass, which eventually leads to a goal for Kelowna (and an assist for Korczak).
Korczak routinely played heavy minutes for Kelowna last season, and that is likely to continue in 2019-20. His offensive game could use a bit of fine-tuning, but Korczak already has the look of an NHL defenseman. The physical traits are very much present, and one could argue that he wouldn’t look completely out of place playing against grown men. Still, it would be beneficial for Korczak to spend some time in the AHL before making the leap to the big club.
Korczak plays a game not unlike that of Brayden McNabb — not flashy offensively, but physically imposing and trusted to play heavy minutes at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill. He could serve as a solid No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman after a year or two in the AHL.
Previously in Vegas Golden Knights Preseason 2019 Top 25 Under 25: