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Photo Credit: hcSKA/Twitter

Vancouver Canucks’ top prospect Vasili Podkolzin said some interesting things about his KHL coach during an interview

Vasili Podkolzin said some interesting things in a recent interview in Russia.

On Friday, the KHL released an English article featuring an interview with the Vancouver Canucks’ top prospect.

Podkolzin spoke about his first KHL game and what it was like to be on a line with Nikita Gusev and Pavel Datsyuk for his debut in Russia’s top hockey league. He later spoke about what it’s like being compared to Connor McDavid and why he did not choose to leave Russia even though he was selected in the CHL draft.

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One of the more interesting quotes came from him when he talked about some of the coaches that he has had in Russia.

“Ilya Vorobyov, my first coach in the KHL, helped me in calming down. He told me not to get too nervous, that if I’m with the team, it means that I can play. I also had a full camp with the senior team under Alexey Kudashov. He helped me in growing and learning many tactical things. I’ve worked with Valery Bragin for three years. I know him, and he knows me. The situation when our head coach changed from a game to another gave us even more motivation. Roman Rotenberg took responsibility in such a difficult moment, and it was so precious. He tuned us up and gave good motivational speeches.”

It’s obvious to anyone who has been watching Podkolzin this season that he is not being given the ice time he deserves. However, he did have a run of games where he played over 15 minutes a night because half of the roster was out of the lineup due to COVID-19.

Podkolzin drives play, he has very high possession numbers in every game and is one of the best defensively aware forwards on the team. He is second on the team in hits while being 26th on the team for average ice time.

The important thing to note from that interview is what Podkolzin said when asked about his current coach Valery Bragin. All he said was, “I know him, and he knows me.”

After giving some praise to his other coaches he didn’t speak much on his current coach at SKA. He even went on to praise some of the work done by replacement coach Roman Rotenberg, who is an analytics specialist for the Russian national teams while also being employed by SKA.

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Even with Rotenberg, ice time has been scarce for Podkolzin.

Podkolzin went on to talk about his current playing time away from Kirill Marchenko and Ivan Morozov. He is still playing with Morozov while Marchenko gets time on the first line. That line was excellent at the start of the season as they were dubbed “The Young Guns Line” as all three were high NHL draft picks and have an average age under 20 years old.

“I miss a bit playing with Kirill Marchenko and Ivan Morozov, we found good chemistry together. We have our way of playing. But not being always together is part of the game. Nobody promised us that we would play our whole career within the same trio. But it would be great if we had a chance to play together again.”

One of the notable things about Podkolzin is that he is not getting any special teams time. He gets a few seconds of penalty kill time every few weeks and maybe had a bit of time on the power play while half the roster was out due to COVID-19 illness, but other than that, he’s typically only deployed at 5 on 5.

There is no realistic way for the Canucks to get Vasili Podkolzin out of Russia right now. His KHL contract expires at the end of the playoffs and his team should go on a decent run as they are one of the top teams in the league.

The quote from Podkolzin about his coach can be taken in a variety of different ways.

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I see the way he reacts on the bench with his coach, I see the short shifts and the extra effort that Podkolzin brings on every shift. He deserves more ice time but he just is not getting it right now. His goals and assists are definitely down and he needs to finish on more chances but the effort level is never lacking. It feels like perhaps he’s being punished for making the decision to leave after this season, instead of signing the extension SKA offered him before he was drafted by the Canucks.

He can’t get to Vancouver soon enough.

Canucks fans will see him dominate on a huge stage at this year’s World Junior Championships in Edmonton at the end of the year.

That is finally when we will see Vasili Podkolzin be freed.

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