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Photo Credit: hcSKA/Twitter

Canucks’ top prospect Vasili Podkolzin is off to a great start in Russia (lots of video included)

The Vancouver Canucks are nearing the end of their year while one prospect is just beginning his.

Vasili Podkolzin is the Canucks’ top prospect.

Picked 10th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Podkolzin will play his final season in Russia with SKA of the KHL.

There was a lot to like about Podkolzin when the Canucks drafted him and the early results of his 2020-21 season are showing even more promise for the 19-year old right winger.

Podkolzin’s team has been taking part in the Sochi Hockey Open tournament over the past week and a half. This is going to be an exciting year for Podkolzin as he will be playing on a line with another top NHL prospect in Kirill Marchenko, who was taken in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The duo has grown chemistry since last season and will begin this year getting more ice time than they saw early on in 2019-20. The duo is even seeing some time on SKA’s powerplay and are showing the coaching staff that this is a smart move.

One of my favourite things to watch in Podkolzin’s game is his work on the powerplay. He is a dominant force as the net-front presence and plays the position so well. To make a comparison, he looks like he has the playmaking ability similar to William Nylander, while being tougher around the crease and not shying away from screening the goalie on a shot from the point.

His positional fluidity as a net-front presence is my favourite thing about him. He will be able to fit right into a powerplay with Elias Pettersson on the right half wall and Bo Horvat in the bumper position. Add in Quinn Hughes at the point and Miller on his strong side and the Canucks powerplay has the potential to be one of the best in the NHL for years to come.

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What I love to see from him is how he is creating more options for the puck carrier. Podkolzin knows when a potential scoring chance is coming and he will put himself and his stick near the net to throw off the goaltender. When a scoring chance isn’t imminent, he will move into open space to open up an extra passing lane for the powerplay players on the half walls.

I like this a lot because as a left-handed shot, he will be on his forehand to receive passes from Pettersson, and if the Canucks choose to go with a right-handed shot like Brock Boeser in the future on their first powerplay unit, that will give Podkolzin the chance to really control that corner of the ice.

One of the strengths of his game, when he plays against his age group, is his strength. We see him lean on players at the World Junior Championships with ease and so far the early returns from this year have shown that he is ready to do that against KHL competition.

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The big question for Podkolzin going into this 2020-21 KHL season will be how much ice time will he receive?

Last year it took more than half the season before we saw Podkolzin getting consistent shifts with his KHL team. The early returns from pre-season action have shown some promise for more ice time as his line has looked good at 5-on-5; he has had time on the powerplay unit and recently has been getting more time on the penalty kill late in games.

The penalty killing is something that really rounds out his game as a true top prospect.

Aside from Tanner Pearson, the Canucks penalty killers are mostly fourth line players. Their goal is to block shots and passes then clear the puck. Podkolzin was trusted to be one of Russia’s top penalty killers at this past year’s WJC and is now seeing PK time with his KHL team.

He isn’t afraid to skate the puck up ice to kill time when shorthanded. Elite penalty killers all have this trait and it bodes well for Podkolzin as he continues to prepare for an NHL career.

He’s aggressive at all times on the ice and it’s very noticeable when his team is a man down.

As we close out this update about Podkolzin here is some great video work done by Daniel Gee, breaking down some of Podkolzin’s shifts over the past week.

It’s only a matter of time before we see Podkolzin in a Canucks uniform and for now, we will have to deal with sketchy KHL streams and potentially the WJC until then.

I recently spoke with TSN’s Craig Button on the Canucks Conversation podcast and he had some very positive comments about the Canucks top prospect.

“Players are going to love playing with him, he’s that player that just understands everything in the game. Coaches are going to love having him on their team and opponents are going to hate playing against him. There’s not downshifting in his game. Everything is done at a high high level of intensity and pace.

I very much believe the Canucks could be the next team to win the Stanley Cup. You add (a player) like Podkolzin to that group and (he) adds different elements to give you a real balance throughout your lineup. I think the Vancouver Canucks are loaded. When I look at Vasili, he’s going to be the captain of the Russia World Junior team and he will take his game to another level this year at the KHL.”

I also asked Craig if he thought Podkolzin would be the best player at the World Junior Championship this year.

“He will be an all-star, he will be one of the three forwards on the tournament’s all-star team. I think that when you look at that, it will give him an opportunity to ultimately immerge as potentially the best player. Vasili absolutely has that capability, I’ll say right now, he will be one of the three all-stars. He may very well be the best player in the tournament.”

So there’s certainly some hype for Vasili Podkolzin and it’s well deserved. He is the hockey equivalent of a five-tool player in baseball and we will see him in a Canucks jersey sooner than later.

We will keep you updated with tons of updates on Podkolzin’s progression as the season goes on and follow along with video machine Daniel Gee and myself on Twitter for instant video highlights from his season.