Long before he saw the 12-foot murals of Shea Weber, Josh Gorges and Duncan Keith on the walls inside Prospera Place, Kaeden Korczak was sold on the benefits of playing defence for the Kelowna Rockets.
So perhaps predictably, the 15-year-old blueliner from Yorkton, SK was ecstatic when the Rockets chose him in the first round, 11th overall, in this spring’s Western Hockey League bantam draft.
“I was in shock, it was my number one pick out of the whole league,” Korczak said of being drafted by the Rockets. “The history they have with getting D-men to the NHL, seeing the murals and name plates in the dressing room, it’s all pretty cool.
“It’s a nice city, a great team and management…a good situation for me.”
Korczak began what both he and the Rockets hope is a long and productive WHL career this week at the team’s rookie camp at Prospera Place.
The 6-foot-2, 172-pound rearguard played up an age group last season with Yorkton’s midget AAA team, and according to Rockets assistant GM Lorne Frey, didn’t look a bit out of place competing against older, more experienced players.
The Rockets, who had to trade up to get a first-round pick in the bantam draft, were more than happy to find Korczak was still available.
“He’s a high-end defenceman who’s going to log a lot of minutes,” Frey said of Korczak. “He’s good in all areas of the game, he has good size, skates well and he’s mobile. He moves the puck, and is just a very intelligent player.
“You’re fortunate to get individuals like this once in a while, an elite player. At (rookie camp) you can see he’s a class above everything else.”
Korczak will stay on for a portion of the Rockets’ main camp over the next few days, before returning to Yorkton for another season in Saskatchewan’s midget AAA league.
Beyond that, Korczak hopes to one day become part of the Rockets’ rich legacy of producing elite level defencemen.
“I have to work on getting bigger and stronger and hopefully come back here to play as a 16-year-old,” he said. “I’d like to develop my skills here, become a better player and a better person, and be key player for the Rockets in the future.”
Rockets’ rookie camp wraps up Friday at Prospera Place, with main camp to officially begin with on-ice sessions Saturday.