This is my first time writing for you guys, so many of you may not know me. My name’s Catherine, I write at LeafsNation, and I watch the Oilers a lot – but last season, I covered the Arizona Coyotes.
Earlier today, I asked around: does anyone have any players they want me to look into? Someone asked about Lauri Korpikoski – which is convenient, since I covered his team last year.
To put in perspective how I felt about Korpikoski last year, here’s one of my game write-ups from late February.
You’ll notice there’s all of one sentence about him, because – well – he didn’t really do much.
In sixty-nine contests with the Coyotes last year, he recorded his worst season statistically since 2009. He put up six goals and fifteen assists, playing the wing and kind of flying up and down the depth chart with the consistency of Nail Yakupov’s defensive game.
In all fairness to Korpi, this wasn’t an anomaly specific to him. If you weren’t OEL, Michael Stone, Tobias Rieder, or Mark Arcobello, chances are you had a pretty garbage season in Arizona. Zbynek Michalek did some nice things before he was injured, but then he was loaned to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline (he’s now back with Arizona on a two year deal) so even he didn’t have a full season of anything but mediocrity and marginal sadness.
WHO IS LAURI KORPIKOSKI?
I sort of categorize Lauri Korpikoski in the little niche of former Coyotes skaters who get worse reps than they deserve because they aren’t consistent goal scorers on a team that perennially has trouble scoring goals.
When he’s able to find the back of the net, Korpikoski is a fun player to watch – but when he’s struggling, he slips down the depth chart pretty quickly. The only problem with that? He struggles more often than not.
This Finnish-born left wing likely fits in a third line role, where he’s a physical skater who stands out because he’s not just physical and plucky, he’s fast. He had trouble Finnish-ing (haaaa, get it?!?!) around the net in Arizona, but he’s supposed to be great at rushing back to redirect the play back up the ice.
“Eye Test” EVALUATION
When Korpikoski can figure out how to score, he’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. His goals are always flashy and fun, with some added speed leading up to his scoring just to make him seem that much more exciting:
He’s also a smart shooter when he’s able to discern the difference between a ‘shooting’ play and a ‘passing’ play. If every time he was on the ice he scored like this, he’d be a top nine guy without any concerns.
THE “Fancy Stats” EVALUATION:
Korpikoski drove a lot of fans crazy last year because he was so inconsistent in the offensive zone, but that actually needs more work is his defensive consistency.
While his speed makes up for a lot of the problems he may have in his game, an inability to score and a reliance being placed on him in the offensive zone has actually skewed Korpikoski’s stats away from looking like a defensively adept forward. He’s fast and physical, but as mentioned above, he’s not exactly all there in the shot suppression category. Not always a bad thing – we sometimes place too much value on a player’s ability to suppress shots – but whether Korpikoski was just being deployed wrong or he really has struggled to maintain good numbers, he’s clearly fallen short of the expectations placed on him by scouts and the team he played for.
In terms of scoring chances for and Corsi for, Korpikoski’s numbers are literally identical to Nail Yakupov’s (this is not a joke. I literally plugged them both into war-on-ice and they’re like these unlucky mid-line twins). Defensively, Korpikoski’s got a slightly better game than Yak, but not by much – but once again, hard to tell if that’s usage-based or a true indicator that he’s better in theory than he is on the ice. The best stat Korpikoski provides is his ability to generate scoring chances for his teammates – he’s a big play generator, as far as second or third liners go.
Ultimately, he’s been written off as a bust by many in Arizona – and I won’t lie, I wasn’t too high on him myself. He does have the raw tools to be better than he has been, though – so in a sheltered depth role with Edmonton, he could be of value.