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Vasili Podkolzin explodes with two goals and one assist in 7-1 win over Austria at World Junior Championships

Vancouver Canucks top prospect Vasili Podkolzin exploded on Tuesday night.

After being held off the scoresheet in Russia’s first two games, the captain of Team Russia got down to business against the much weaker Austrian team.

It didn’t take long for Podkolzin to score a highlight-reel goal in Tuesday night’s affair as he walked in and ripped a shot with a Markus Naslund-esque goal to give Russia a 1-0 lead just six minutes into the first period.

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After sniping his way onto the scoresheet, Podkolzin showed strength on the boards and around the net when he buried his second goal of the game.

Just three minutes later, Podkolzin got within inches of having a first-period hat trick as his shot trickled through the Austrian goaltender before being tipped in by Minnesota Wild (Judd Brackett) draft pick Marat Khusnutdinov.

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Podkolzin continued his excellent play in the second period. There was a shift just after the halfway point of the period where he blocked two Austrian shots before making a smooth pass to begin a two on one for Russia.

To quote @CanucksLottery — “brilliant.”

Austria fought back in the middle frame as they scored a goal of their own and cut the lead down to 4-1. Podkolzin’s disdain was visible as the camera zoomed in on him after the goal.

Austria outscored Russia in the second period but trailed 30-15 in shots after 40 minutes of play.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie described Podkolzin as, “a very hard worker. I don’t know that he’s going to go to the National Hockey League and be a first-line scoring winger but he’s going to be just a great all-around player and a great all-around pro. He grinds, he hits, he scores, he makes plays.”

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Even with the scoring outburst in the first period, the most impressive shift may have come in the third period when Podkolzin put his playmaking ability on full display. In one 30 second shift, he made four perfect passes to set up four scoring chances. This is what Podkolzin does so well and will be one of his biggest strengths when he finally gets to skate with NHL talent.

Russia added three more goals in the third period and secured a 7-1 victory.

This outcome against Austria could have been predicted but it was still great to see Podkolzin find the scoresheet multiple times. It reminded me of my grade 10 basketball team playing against our own team’s grade nine squad. I put up 28 points in that game with my younger brother trying to cover me in the post. We were bigger, stronger, better looking, faster and outplayed them, they never stood a chance.

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Russia did much of the same against the lesser Austrian team.

After being held pointless in the first two games it seemed like Podkolzin’s tournament was going up in flames. All it took was a confidence boost for him to go back to what he does best — driving the net hard and making elite level passes.

This can’t be the end for Podkolzin in this tournament. He should be able to do a lot of these things against better competition simply because of how much better he is than most players at this tournament. His skating is at a high level, his passing is at a high level and he showed Tuesday night that his shooting is high level as well.

In the first two games of the tournament, it seemed like the KHL leash that has been tightened on him over the past two seasons was still tight around his throat. In the Austria game, he was finally able to breathe and it showed with how confident he was in his own abilities.

He is one of, if not the best forward in this tournament and he showed a taste of it on Tuesday.

Now Podkolzin needs to do it against better competition. Russia will take on Sweden on Wednesday night at 6:30 pm, in that game Podkolzin will face off against a much better defence core that features top prospects on defence such as Victor SΓΆderstrΓΆm and Philip Broberg. Podkolzin needs to have the belief in his own abilities against this better competition because he is able to dominate them just like he did against Austria.

Vasili Podkolzin was named player of the game for Russia in the 7-1 shellacking and if he keeps playing with this type of confidence then it likely won’t be the last time he receives this honour.

He needed to be better and he was, Podkolzin is the captain of this Russian team and needed to play like it instead of the fourth line grinder that he has been coached into during his time in the KHL. Russia’s head coach Igor Larionov knows that Podkolzin can be a dominant scorer in this tournament and my hope is that he lets Podkolzin know that after Tuesday night’s game.

As mentioned earlier, Russia plays Sweden on Wednesday night in a huge WJC matchup. This is the big test during round-robin play for Russia and it’s another chance for Podkolzin to show that he is dominant against U20 competition. With this confidence boost, expect him to show very well against the Swedish team.