Canucks Prospect Report: Vasili Podkolzin is NHL ready

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Canucks Prospect Report is a new weekly segment on The Canuck Way, which will profile various prospects throughout their respective seasons.

I’ll be assessing which Canuck hopefuls have the best chance to make the team this season. Tune in each and every Monday to see what’s happening. 

With the NHL season just over the horizon, we will soon know which prospects will don the orca logo for the first time this year. Vasili Podkolzin is one player the Vancouver Canucks hope to join that group.

The Canucks’ 10th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Podkolzin is a responsible two-way player who demonstrates a maturity beyond his years. He possesses a shrewd hockey IQ, an unmatched drive on the ice, and is considered to be a future leader for the Russian national team.

There truly isn’t enough you can say about Podkolzin’s game; he protects the puck effectively, he can orchestrate plays, and his board play is excellent.

One detractor to his game, though, is his skating. Podkolzin’s stride seems a bit choppy at times, and his stance is a tad upright, so he doesn’t generate as much power and speed that he likely could.

However, the Canucks coaching staff can easily iron out such mechanical issues.

Overall, Podkolzin is a well-rounded, versatile player, and will fit perfectly in the NHL game. TSN’s Craig Button characterized Podkolzin’s game as “relentless” in a TSN’s That’s Hockey segment.

"“He’s a Mr. Do-Everything in the game, and whether he’s killing penalties, whether he’s on the power play, you’re down a goal, you’re up a goal, he’s going to do everything in his power to make a difference in those situations. […] I think the North American rink is better suited for his game, because he has an attack mentality. Everything he does; attack inside the dots, take the puck to the net, and he is unrelenting in his purpose and in his determination.”"

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Unfortunately, Podkolzin’s situation in Russia is a bit murky. As a young player in the KHL, minutes are sometimes hard to come by. Through 24 games with SKA Saint Petersburg, Podkolzin has scored a lowly two goals and six points.

Although, he has shown this year that he can compete with the best. Podkolzin had an excellent showing at the Karjala Cup, scoring one goal and five points in three games, all the while playing against tougher, older competition.

Podkolzin’s performance exemplified his composure and skillset at a high level, on the way to a tournament victory. So, despite limited opportunities, Podkolzin has taken full advantage of his chances as they come.

Podkolzin will soon be front-and-centre on one of hockey’s biggest stages, captaining Russia at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships.

This year’s tournament comes with no shortage of pressure for the 19-year old, but Russia’s head coach, and one of the most revered hockey minds on the planet, Igor Larionov, has full confidence in Podkolzin.

When speaking with TSN’s Mark Masters, Larionov expressed his belief in the feisty winger.

"“One of the biggest tasks for me, when I’m getting the boys from the KHL teams, they’re very strict, by the system, by the coaches, because they’re young. So the coaches, obviously, they’re under the pressure, so they’re not letting the boys [make] mistakes. When they come to my hands […] I let them play the game, create some chances […] I like Vasili from last year, [he] needs special attention, in terms of [letting] him play, to understand the game and to play the right game in certain situations […] [there’s] no doubt in my mind he’s a team leader and he’s the guy who can handle the pressure, who can do the [little things well]. His skill level is top-notch. Sometimes he’s doing a bit too much, but now with a good centre, I think he’s going to do his job more [efficiently] and effectively. I expect him to be a top guy and a [go-to] guy and lead the way for the Russian Junior team.”"

Podkolzin is slated to line up alongside Toronto’s Rodion Amirov and Minnesota’s Marat Khusnutdinov, forming what looks to be one of the most dangerous trios in the tournament this year.