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Monday Mailbag: Vasily Podkolzin on the penalty kill, NCAA free agent dream list, and Elias Pettersson wanting to answer the question

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Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Faber
By Faber
22 days ago
We are back again and on the heels of a Vancouver Canucks victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Say what you want about tanking for the best chance to land Connor Bedard, but it still tastes just as sweet to see the Canucks beat the Leafs.
This is a new week for the mailbag because we are highly unlikely to see many questions about trades, as the deadline passed on Friday.
We are now on to the stage of European, CHL and NCAA free-agent signings. The NCAA regular season wrapped up this past weekend and teams are now onto their conference playoffs. You can expect to see some NCAA free agents start to sign as of today and it will be a game-by-game update on when some of the top free agents will be able to sign with NHL organizations.
As for the European leagues, the SHL regular season concludes on March 9th. And they will begin their playoffs just a few days later.
Speaking of a few days later, the Finnish Liiga finished on March 11th and they will have their playoffs the following week.
As for the CHL leagues, they have a long road to the Memorial Cup but the WHL and OHL regular seasons conclude on March 26th, and the QMJHL regular season wraps up on March 25th.
Playoff rounds will follow but don’t expect to see any CHL free agents in NHL lineups any time soon.
Now that we have got some of the free March/April free agent news out of the way, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag and see what we can expand on.
It has been pretty astonishing that Vasily Podkolzin has still not received time on the penalty kill at the NHL level. He’s seen 49 seconds of shorthanded time this season over his 29 games played.
Podkolzin was a strong penalty killer in the KHL before coming to North America and did see some time on the penalty kill with Abbotsford during his stint in the AHL. He wasn’t relied upon to be a massive minute muncher in the AHL on the penalty kill but he did see his role grow as his time in the AHL went on.
In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer to get Podkolzin on the penalty kill this season and you have to think he will eventually get that shot.
The top-four forwards receiving penalty-killing minutes on the Canucks under Rick Tocchet are J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, Dakota Joshua, and Nils Aman.
Jack Studnicka, Phil Di Giuseppe, Sheldon Dries, and even Anthony Beauvillier have gotten more time than Podkolzin over Tocchet’s tenure.
Podkolzin may need to let Tocchet know that killing penalties is something he has done in the past. We have been seeing Podkolzin spend a lot of one-on-one time with Tocchet before and after practices lately. Perhaps some Podkolzin PK-time is on the near horizon.
In my eyes, it’s either left-shot Mikhail Gulyayev or right-shot David Reinbacher.
Many will point to Axel Sandin-Pellikka but he has had a rough go over his second-half of the season and will absolutely fall down some rankings if he doesn’t have a very strong SHL playoffs.
Gulyayev is tremendous skater and can move the puck well, but he is 5’10” and we wouldn’t call his puck skills elite. He may get there but he is only really showing well in the Russian junior leagues and that league is extremely hard to project NHL careers out of.
As for Reinbacher, he is our guy.
The big right-shot defenceman stands at 6’2″ and has shown poise and power in the Swiss top league. We went deep into Reinbacher’s game a couple of weeks ago, and you can read that article HERE.
We will have more on Sandin-Pellikka soon. I’m currently working on a similar piece to the Reinbacher one mentioned earlier.
There are a couple of WHL defencemen that will likely be first rounders or be picked early in the second round. And we know that a lot of you in the comments want the Canucks to draft some good Canadian kids!
Caden Price has shown well defensively with the Kelowna Rockets. Price is a 6’1″, left-shot defenceman who has five goals and 29 assists through 56 games with the Rockets.
The other WHL defenceman to watch for is Lukas Dragicevic. He is a 6’2″ right-shot defenceman who seems to be trending upwards from those who have spent a lot of time covering him this season. He has 15 goals and 53 assists through 59 games. The production is extremely intriguing and we will certainly be doing a long evaluation of Dragicevic over the next couple of months.
A few other names to know are Tristan Bertucci, Arttu Kärki, and Daniil Karpovich.
It feels like Aatu Räty is the easy answer, right?
If these players pan out, this is a big third line with some scoring touch.
Räty and Vitali Kravtsov have the potential to develop into shooters while Podkolzin could play that crash and bang style that linemates love to have on their side.
There aren’t really any other centres in the Canucks’ prospect pipeline. So, Räty is kind of all you got.
Love this question.
First off, I’d sign two right-shot defencemen out of the NCAA — Jake Livingstone and Sam Malinski. This would help bolster the right side of the defence and hopefully you find a player out of the two.
I’d then spend a contract on 6’6″ defenceman Valterri Pulli out of Finland.
Big body, a decent skater — you can see why many believe there’s upside there. He is also just 21 years old.
After that, I’d go a bit off the board and snag winger Ryan McAllister from the NCAA. He was on a tear earlier this season and can score goals a lot of different ways.
I’d then go with Jacob Bendtsson out of the NCAA. He’s a 6’3″, left-shot defenceman who many scouts believe is NHL-ready at the present day. He plays a good defensive game and can chip in with an accurate shot from the point.
Finally, I’d close out with another defenceman in Akito Hirose. Elite Prospects’ J.D. Burke is extremely high on this guy and I’ve liked what I’ve seen as well. He’s a positional wizard and is rarely caught in his own zone. He’s very aware of where he needs to be to close out passing lanes in his own zone and moves it well enough to think he could be a bottom-pairing guy in the NHL one day.
As you can see from my picks, I’d be going hard at the NCAA market and staying a bit colder on the European or CHL free agents. This year’s NCAA class was affected by the timing of COVID and is juiced with NHL talent.
Depending on goaltending, the Abbotsford Canucks could go on a deep run.
They have young players, veterans, tough guys, and skill guys.
It’s a strong defence corps with Noah Juulsen, Christian Wolanin, and Jack Rathbone being the drivers.
The forwards are young but have a lot of potential to be good in this coming AHL playoffs.
I’d bet they win at least the play-in series and another round.
Jeremy Colliton has these guys running at a good tempo and the organization is putting a lot of effort into having playoff hockey in the valley this spring.
Well, I wouldn’t quite say that, but I do want to give Elias Pettersson some props for what he did on Saturday night during the postgame media availability.
I tried to ask a question three times throughout the interview and was beaten to the punch or cut off by senior reporters twice and then the Canucks PR staff wanted to end things just as I was to get in my third attempt at asking the question. Pettersson stayed around and wanted to hear my question out.
Video from Canucks.com
I did flub my question a little bit, but I guess that’s what happens when you have to ask it four times. It was nice of Pettersson for realizing that I did have to wait for the question and we all had a good laugh after anyways.
It’s just nice to see Pettersson’s comfortability with the media continue to grow as he will have to be ready to deal with us on a daily basis if they put the C on his chest soon.
Well, that wraps it up for this week’s Monday Mailbag. As always, we appreciate the questions that we receive and will be back next Monday!

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