Two members of the Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team were selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.
The Chicago Blackhawks on July 7 selected defenseman Kevin Korchinski as the seventh overall pick. The Edmonton Oilers took forward Reid Schaefer with the 32nd and final pick of the first round.
“It was surreal,” said Korchinski, as reported by nbcsports.com. “I didn’t really see it coming. And just being with my family and experience that with them, it’s unbelievable. So yeah, it’s awesome.”
Korchinski, 18, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan logged 65 points (4 goals, 61 assists) in 67 regular-season games for the Thunderbirds this season, plus another 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in 25 Western Hockey League playoff games. Seattle won the Western Conference title but fell in the WHL Final to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Here’s what EliteProspects.com said about Korchinski.
“Most prospects use the middle lane sparingly. Korchinski attacks it every touch with unwavering confidence. Once he gets the first forechecker chasing, he skates directly at the next one. Sometimes, he fakes them out with handling skill and dekes around them. Others, he passes under their stick for a long-range breakout pass. If neither is an option, he encourages the forechecker to reach, then he cuts back away from them before moving play to the inside. Either way, the result is the same: he’s beat two players, meaning there’s an open teammate up the ice.”
Korchinski said he models his game after Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore (a former T-Birds player) but grew up a Hawks fan because of his dad, according to the chicagosuntimes.com.
“(Korchinski is an) unbelievable playmaker with the puck,” said Hawks scouting director Mike Doneghey, according to the chicagosuntimes.com. “He gets up ice fast, gets back for pucks fast, is really good on the power play. He’s different than a lot of the defensemen we’ve drafted in the last few years. He’s really puck friendly. He’ll be a first unit power-play guy (and) projects to be a first-pairing defenseman.”
Schaefer to Oilers
Schaefer, 18, of Spruce Grove, Alberta, is joining his hometown team in Edmonton.
“When I heard my name called, it was just a sigh of relief and a dream come true,” said Schaefer, according to nhl.com/oilers. “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life, so for it to come true, it’s awesome.”
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Schaefer posted 58 points (32 goals, 26 assists) in 66 games for the T-Birds.
Schaefer attributed part of his successful season to the quality of teammates he had in Seattle, hoping he can help the T-Birds put together another run to the WHL title next season, according to the Oilers website.
“Obviously going on a longer playoff run brings more scouts and all that attention to you, but without that team success there wouldn’t be individual success,” he said. “I credit that to the team and how well we did. We had a great group in that locker room and it was very fun, so we’re hoping to do that next as well and try to win a WHL championship.”
The WHL features players ages 16-20 and serves as a training ground for future NHL players. Despite being drafted in the first round, Korchinski and Schaefer are both expected to return to the T-Birds for another season.
Other T-Birds drafted
With the 79th pick in the third round, the Las Vegas Golden Knights chose T-Birds forward Jordan Gustafson.
In 58 games, Gustafson, of Ardrossan, British Columbia, tallied 52 points (23 goals, 29 assists). He will join in Las Vegas former T-Birds Shea Theodore and Keegan Kolesar.
The Montreal Canadiens selected forward Jared Davidson, of Edmonton, in the fifth round with the 130th pick. He racked up 89 points (42 goals, 47 assists) in 64 games for the T-Birds.