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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

‘I’m very glad that I signed a contract with Vancouver’: Vasily Podkolzin speaks on leaving the KHL to showcase his talents in the NHL

On Sunday, the Vancouver Canucks announced a three-year entry-level contract for their top prospect, Vasily Podkolzin.

According to the Canucks, Podkolzin will be available to local media after the World Championships conclude. The tournament will finish up on June 6th, so we can expect to speak with Podkolzin and likely a translator in just over a week. For now, he is doing interviews in Russia and speaking about his time with SKA, Russian National Teams and also his excitement to try his hand in the NHL.

These quotes are translated from Russian websites such as SKA’s team site, Sports24 and SportsRU.

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From the exterior, it’s looked like a treacherous path travelled but he will likely not speak ill-will toward the organization that gave him a shot to play in the KHL at 17 years old. Podkolzin spoke with a SKA website reporter about his time with the organization.

“I am very glad that everything happened, that I played in SKA for three years,” said Podkolzin. “St. Petersburg has become almost a home for me, I believe that I grew up here as a hockey player and as a person. I want to thank the management, coaches, partners and, of course, the fans for these three seasons.

“In the MHL spent only a month, then I was transferred to the Major League, there already played with men. Then they took to the KHL, so, we can say, passed all the steps. In St. Petersburg, the infrastructure is at the highest level, the best coaches work here, summer training camps are held – ideal conditions for any young hockey player.”

“To those guys who will now follow the path of the MHL – VHL – KHL, I advise to work, first of all. More than the others. And, of course, to remain easy to communicate with people and not to be afraid of anything.”

We often saw Podkolzin’s ice time bounce around as he was truly one of the first teenagers to break through as a player who could contribute for SKA at the KHL level. He spoke about being one of the first players to do that for SKA and how he expects some talented players to follow suit. A perfect example is Matvei Michkov, who just signed a five-year deal with SKA as a 16-year-old.

Podkolzin spoke with sports.ru about the comments from his agent on January 11th, when he said that Podkolzin would not be returning to SKA and will be coming to the NHL for the 2021-22 season.

“If I was thinking about Vancouver all the time, it would be wrong with SKA,” said Podkolzin. “Of course, I had this in my head, I really wanted to try my hand at the NHL. But at the same time, I really wanted to play in the KHL and for the national team. Thoughts about leaving arose both before the season and during some unfortunate segments for me. I have thought a lot and can safely say that I am very happy that I spent these three years in SKA. They believed in me, they gave me chances.”

There were definitely difficult times for Podkolzin this season, which included being healthy scratched multiple times and even being sent down to the Russian minor leagues for a game. It brought up the question of if he considered trying to leave Russia early to join the Canucks.

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“There was talk, of course,” said Podkolzin “But everything was postponed until the end of the season because there were a lot of matches, then the playoffs. Neither I nor the club management thought about my departure, there were other tasks.”

It seems as though Podkolzin is ready to move on from SKA. It was good of the organization to give him a shot at 17 years old but he is a much better player now than he was back then and his play screams that he belongs in the best league in the world.

Many asked if there is an out clause to go back to Russia and his agent told sportsru, “there is no clause on the return of the player to the KHL.”

Even though there is no chance he needs to start in the AHL, Podkolzin was asked if he would report to the AHL if that is what the Canucks organization wants for him, and was fully on board with it. Thankfully, many have a good feeling that there will be no AHL games for Podkolzin. His game will instantly translate to NHL success, it just depends on if that’s in a top or bottom-six role.

Podkolzin was asked if there was a KHL out-clause in his NHL contract.

“I don’t think so,” said Podkolzin. “I don’t think about returning to Russia, I want to fight my way there and prove it.”

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As we know, Podkolzin is currently with Russia’s World Championship team as an extra forward who is not suiting up for the team. He is on the sidelines supporting his team and spoke about his feelings of being left off the roster.

“Of course I was upset. I really wanted to play in the World Cup,” said Podkolzin. “But you have to understand, I am 19 years old. As for the chances, if I scored 8 goals in four matches, who wouldn’t take me. In any case, for me, the time on the national team is a huge experience. Of course, I want the boys to win. I have no grudges, nothing like that. Only kind words and support.”

Daria Tuboltseva of Sports24 reports that Podkolzin will be coming to North America in August and still needs to work on his English to feel comfortable in Canada.

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Now we wait.

I am more confident than most that Podkolzin is going to be an impact player on day one. Many believe that we should temper expectations about the Russian winger but I am so confident in his game being ready for a top-nine role in the NHL.

We saw Nils Höglander come in and shock the fanbase with how NHL ready he was. Well, Podkolzin has been higher on every prospect evaluator’s rankings. Podkolzin is going to bring even more tenacious forechecking, as he is a big body who knows how to use his size to his advantage. He is willing to stick up for a teammate and drops the gloves if someone tries to push him around.

Podkolzin fits the deployment of the Horvat line to a tee. Asking him to be in a matchup role is something he is likely ready for on day one. His attention to detail as a defending winger is at a high level and though many say to relax on this prospect, I’m not in that camp.

I’ve got very high expectations for Vasily Podkolzin right from day one of his NHL career and from the way he plays and speaks, I’d bet his expectations are even higher than mine.

The KHL chapter of his career is now over and he is very excited for what is to come with his hockey career.

“I am very happy that I signed a contract with Vancouver, that everything happened this way,” said Podkolzin. “It’s all very cool.”

We will likely hear from Podkolzin in the next seven to 10 days and it should be an interesting conversation between himself and the Vancouver media. We have a lot of questions for the Russian star.

One thing is for sure, every Canucks fan should be excited for this type of player joining the team next season. He will be a difference-maker on day one, and it will be up to Travis Green to decide which line Podkolzin fits on the best.

Who would you like to see Podkolzin play with on day one of training camp?