Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Vasily Podkolzin speaks about the tough start to the Canucks season and what he learned from Artemi Panarin

It’s been a brutal start to the season for the Vancouver Canucks.

But through the dark clouds that have surrounded this organization, one of the bright points has been Vasily Podkolzin.

The 20-year-old Russian winger has continued to improve as the season has progressed to the 20-game mark.

We don’t get to hear from Podkolzin, who is still learning the English langauge.

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In fact, we haven’t heard from him since training camp.

Its been tough to figure out how he has been feeling throughout the struggles of the organization. Though he hasn’t been speaking to the Vancouver media, he has conducted interviews with certain Russian reporters throughout the season.

Podkolzin spoke with Daria Tuboltseva of Sports24 in Russia last Wednesday.

Here are some interesting quotes from the article that I had translated.

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He was asked what he isn’t used to in the NHL and what he needs to work on.

“There’s a lot to work on, a lot,” said Podkolzin. “In Russia, everything was a little different. In the NHL, a player has very little time to make decisions, and those decision needs to be made correctly. I’m not fully used to it yet. I even have Artemi Panarin say to me that the most important thing here is skating when we talked after the game. And that’s true. If you’re constantly skating and on the move, it’s easier for you to play. First, you need to get used to the speed, and then learn how to play at these speeds and make the right decisions. The faster you adapt to this, the better.”

Fans have definitely been pleasantly surprised by Podkolzin’s quick growth in the NHL at such a young age. He was asked about the favourable coverage from the Vancouver market about the growth in his game and if he believes that he has improved a lot since the preseason.

“I think so,” said Podkolzin. “Except for the last outings (Colorado 7-1, Vegas 7-4, Anaheim 5-1), which, to put it mildly, was unsuccessful for both me and the team. But honestly, from game to game, it makes me feel better. I start playing more with the puck, I’m given more time to play and it gives confidence. I want to play more and gain experience. Now, I remember the pre-season, review my highlights, and see a huge difference.”

This interview was conducted right after the Canucks’ dismal three-game road trip in which they were on a four-game losing streak including a three-game road trip where they were outscored by a count of 19-6. The interviewer asked Podkolzin about the Canucks’ bad start to the season and the team’s placing near the bottom of the Western Conference.

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“The road trip did not work at all,” said Podkolzin. “It is clear that in the NHL all 32 teams are strong, the competition is fierce. Somehow it didn’t work out for us, and immediately the team mood did not go very well. Everything changes very quickly, you should not dwell on failures. It is clear that you always want to win. But there’s a chance to fix things quickly, so I don’t really bother about it.”

Podkolzin was asked about how tough the NHL schedule has been on him in the early parts of his North American career. He said that it has been tough and that “coaches are constantly telling you to work with your feet and at some point, you start to sag.”

He went on to say that the days off are nice but they are mostly used for recovery days.

As we all know, there are no other Russians on the Canucks’ roster. Podkolzin was asked if being the only Russian on the team is hard.

“The situation is twofold,” said Podkolzin. “If there were Russians on the team, I probably wouldn’t have learned English at all, but I have to communicate. But sometimes it’s hard, I want to speak and communicate with my homeland.”

When asked if Podkolzin has been shy, he told the reporter that he isn’t. He said that he talks with everyone and that the whole team is nice to him, cares about him and knows that he is not great at English just yet. Podkolzin also went on to say that he mostly just talks with the Swedish guys and younger guys on the team. He singled out Quinn Hughes as one of the guys with who he talks the most and went on to say that he mostly just talks with the young guys but does chat with the veterans too.

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The reporter asked if Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes keep themselves in a higher status compared to everyone else on the team.

“No, there’s no such thing here at all,” said Podkolzin. “Good and simple boys. I’m glad I met them.”

When asked about how he likes living in Vancouver, Podkolzin said that all is well. He said that for the most part, the weather is similar to St. Petersburg but heard that it only snows one week a year here. He went on to say that there are beautiful places to walk and said, “you could say I was lucky,” about being in Vancouver. When asked how his wife was doing, Podkolzin said that she seems like she isn’t bored and that the two have found Russian acquaintances. He said that his wife is always cooking, doing great and that the duo are learning English together.

Podkolzin was asked if he gets recognized in Vancouver.

“I wouldn’t say so,” said Podkolzin. “Rarely they will know. I’m not a star, I’ve only been living and playing here for two months. But, sometimes people do. They will not recognize me in such quantities as Ovechkin, who cannot go to shopping centers on weekends.”

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Though we are seeing his minutes increase as the season goes on, Podkolzin was asked if he was getting discouraged from only averaging 8:45 of ice time through the first eight games of the season.

“No, I’m always happy,” said Podkolzin. “It’s a great joy to play here. I think I’m lucky in everything. Being in this league is cool. It doesn’t matter how much you play here. If you play for 7-8 minutes, you have to try to squeeze everything out of them. Give more, take more. There is definitely no need to lose heart. I’m playing in the best league in the world! I go out and have fun.”

He was asked about his chances of playing for Russia at the upcoming Olympics.

“It’s hard to say,” said Podkolzin. “It is clear that the dream of any hockey player is to play at the Olympics. Especially when there will be all the strongest players. But I don’t even know what I can say here. My job is to play well. If I do, I will be called. Of course, I want to play. Only a fool doesn’t want to. I have to play, and then they will decide for me.”

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It’s been no secret that the crowd at Rogers Arena has gone wild when Podkolzin scores a goal. Two of his three goals this season have come on home ice and Podkolzin already loves Canucks fans.

“The atmosphere at the matches is impressive,” said Podkolzin. “Sometimes you try to disconnect from it because you have to play hockey. But still, what’s going on around you, it’s really cool. It’s such a bright show. Especially in Vancouver, the fans are great! So sick, so supportive, it cannot be described in words.”

When asked what he misses from Russia, apparently it’s the baths.

“Aside from my parents, I miss the Russian bath,” said Podkolzin. “With food, everything is fine here, my wife cooks everything: borscht, and everything else. There is a Russian store here, sometimes we buy food there. But there is no Russian bath.”

Finally, Podkolzin said that he was very happy with the reaction from his teammates when he took a big hit from Brayden McNabb.

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He went on to say that the hit wasn’t that big and that he was just caught off-balance.

We haven’t heard much from Podkolzin but he has been happy with his time in Vancouver even with the tough times that the team has gone through. As one of the bright spots on this team, he has been a rare, fun story to follow this year.

Through the last 10 games, Podkolzin has seen an average ice time of 13:47 including a season-high of 16:22 on Wednesday night in a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Podkolzin is now getting a dash of power play time and is earning more and more minutes every game.

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