Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Vasily Podkolzin on trusting Bruce Boudreau, life in Vancouver, and adjusting to the NHL
By Faber1 year ago
Vasily Podkolzin is coming off a rookie season that saw him score 14 goals and add 12 assists in 79 games. He acclimated himself to the NHL and what it’s like to live in North America.
Now, after a 36-hour travel day that saw him deal with a lengthy delay in Istanbul, Turkey — Podkolzin is back home in Russia. Podkolzin said that he brought so many bags home that he had to pay $300 in baggage fees.
After getting a chance to see his family and friends, Podkolzin spoke with Daria Tuboldseva of the Russian sports website Sport24. We translated the article and found some interesting answers from the 20-year-old winger.
He spoke about his living situation for the offseason and mentioned he and his wife heading their separate ways to see all of their family before meeting up in their offseason home.
“I will be in Moscow with my grandparents, aunts and uncles,” said Podkolzin. “My wife went to her home in Yaroslavl, then I will go to her, and from there we will go to St. Petersburg together, we will live there.”
Podkolzin was on his way back home just four days after the Abbotsford Canucks were eliminated from the playoffs. He said that packing up in half a week was not easy but he is now happy to be back home and be able to see all of his family and friends. He’s working on planning a vacation with some of his best friends and is excited to take a deep breath and relax with his friends after the demanding NHL season.
“Everything was intense and I was tired,” said Podkolzin when asked about how he felt physically after the season. “I asked the guys from Vancouver how they prepare for the season and they only start going to the gym and on the ice in mid-August. Then, when they come to Vancouver, they begin to train intensively. I started in mid-July, so, maybe I started early. On the other hand, I felt great throughout the season except for the ending.”
Podkolzin mentioned that he will be training in St. Petersburg this summer. He says that they have a great training facility with easy access to ice and he will be around some of his former teammates. The plan is to return to Vancouver three weeks before training camp and get back into a routine with the Canucks.
Though we were all impressed with Podkolzin’s English at the end of the season, the beginning of the year was tough for him.
“When it was my first trip of the season, Hughes took me to the movies,” said Podkolzin. “Back then, my English was just terrible. We went to the movie “Dune” and I didn’t understand anything at all. I sat for 2.5 hours and couldn’t understand anything. Hughes then said, ‘well that was hard to understand even for me.'”
Movies weren’t a good start for him and his wife as they adjusted to Vancouver but Vasily praises his wife for getting him out of the apartment and exploring the city.
“I’m not a fan of walking or doing anything at all, but, thank god, at least my wife pulled me out, otherwise it would definitely be sour. I lived in an apartment in the arena building, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have gone outside at all. Now we want to make visas for our parents. When they come to visit us, I think our life will be more diverse.”
The adjustment wasn’t easy but Podkolzin viewed it as part of the challenge of becoming an NHL player.
“Over the course of the season, I’ve grown as a hockey player and as a person,” said Podkolzin. “Living 8.5 months in another country where everything was new for me is helpful — I’m happy with that. In hockey terms, it could have been better. But I talked a lot with the coach, with the management, and with the guys. Everyone says, ‘just keep working and it’s going to be okay. You have everything you need to be a good player in this league.’ I live with this thought.”
Now let’s really dive into the hockey talk.
The confidence level is high with Podkolzin. He had high expectations for himself and accomplished a lot of the goals that he had set for himself. The thought of being sent down to the AHL to begin the season was not something he believed would happen.
“Maybe it will sound arrogant, but I didn’t go with the idea that I could be sent to the AHL,” said Podkolzin. “I went with the thought of showing that I could play in the NHL. I was very happy when they called me before the first departure and said that they were leaving me on the [NHL] team. I, like many Russian players, had fears that they could go down. But somehow, in this regard, the season passed smoothly for me. There was clarity about where I was and what I was — that was great.”
Getting comfortable in Vancouver seemed to happen around the turn of the calendar. Podkolzin said that he began to feel like himself more in January and that he was able to understand more of the jokes from teammates at that time. As his English improved, Vancouver became much more like a home to the kid. Podkolzin’s ability to improve with the English language even surprised him a little bit.
“If I had been told at the beginning of the season that at the end I would go out to journalists and give an interview in English, I would not have believed it. I felt comfortable because around me this comfort was created by my teammates. All the guys took me under their wing and took care of me.”
Podkolzin was asked about the 10-game stretch where he had no points as well as the 17-game stretch where he went without a goal.
“It was very difficult,” said Podkolzin. “It seems that time has passed [just] a little, but you look, and 17 matches have passed. It’s terrible. I didn’t even want to watch. But there’s nothing you can do about it. If you think about it all the time, it’s only going to get worse. As soon as you stop thinking about it and switch to other things, you start working differently, in defence, for example, and goals immediately come. In this regard, it became a little easier for me in the second half of the season. I let go of the situation and played, tried to do the right thing and quit more. In general, I need to shoot more, from all positions, because the area is small, there is practically no space, you can play [a] passing [style], but it is already harder.”
He spoke about when Bruce Boudreau made him a healthy scratch.
“I wasn’t playing well at the time,” said Podkolzin. “There’s a trick in the NHL: you have to look at your game from the outside, watch your team’s game from the stands. And that really helped. I watched the game against Chicago with the coaches, we discussed the moments, how and where to play, and I came out with a different understanding. Being sent to the reserve is an unpleasant moment but Bruce explained everything to me. He said ‘I have no doubt that you will be a good player, just that’s what you need.’ When I met Alex Ovechkin, he told me: “Listen to Bruce and everything will be fine, he will help you as a hockey player.”
Bruce Boudreau was a big help for Podkolzin this season. When talk about going down to the AHL came about for Podkolzin, he was confused and worried.
Being papered down to the AHL on the trade deadline didn’t make sense to Podkolzin so he went to speak with Boudreau and he explained the whole situation. Boudreau told him that this was usual practice for young players and that he would benefit from getting playoff experience in the AHL. Podkolzin said that Boudreau explained the situation to him and calmed him down as he wasn’t sure what was exactly happening with the papering down to the AHL.
“Bruce does not care who you are,” said Podkolzin. “Me, Horvat, or Pettersson, if you play well, you will play. Bruce has a good connection with the youngsters.”
It’s clear that Podkolzin became more comfortable as the season went on and he spoke very highly of his coach Bruce Boudreau. Podkolzin has always looked up to Ovechkin and seeing the relationship between Boudreau and Ovechkin made Podkolzin confident to listen to everything Boudreau said to him.
It was good to hear Podkolzin’s thoughts on the season and how his first year in Vancouver went. There’s a very bright future in his game. We also love to hear his insight into the game and life in general. Podkolzin is going to be a big piece for the Canucks in the coming years and it’s great to see that he has a great head on his shoulders.
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