With a year under his belt, Vasily Podkolzin feels at home returning to the Vancouver Canucks
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang3 months ago
It’s not easy to move across the globe to a foreign country where you barely speak the language and settle into life. It’s even harder when there are massive expectations for you to perform in a public-facing job. However, last season that’s exactly the transition that Vasily Podkolzin successfully navigated on his way to an encouraging rookie season.
The Canucks’ 2019 first-round draft pick finished his rookie year with 14 goals and 12 assists in 79 games, good for 26 points. He displayed an accurate shot, a willingness to throw the body around, and an intriguing combination of size and skill that has Canucks fans excited for his future.
Heading into his second NHL season, Podkolzin will be looking to avoid the infamous sophomore slump that plagues so many young players in the NHL. The good news is that he has now had a year to acclimate to Vancouver and the Canucks organization, an experience that should make this year much easier than the last in many ways. Adding to that comfort level is the addition of a few Russian players to the Canucks roster.
“It’s sick. I just met with Ilya Mikheyev and his wife. Great guys. Kuzy [Andrey Kuzmenko], I played with him for years,” said Podkolzin when asked about the new Russians on the roster.
Podkolzin should be one of the beneficiaries of these moves as he gains some teammates who can share his experience of relocating to Vancouver to play hockey.
The difference a year makes
Last season, Podkolzin was the only Russian player on the Canucks’ roster. He’d never played with any of his teammates prior to joining the club and had to make new relationships.
“I remember when I came to Vancouver last year, I felt like I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know guys…I came in this year, like a few days ago, I feel at home,” commented the Russian sophomore.
The addition of the two Russian players isn’t the only thing that will make this year easier for Podkolzin. The experience he gained last year in terms of getting to know the support staff for the team, the way that the team operates, the daily routines, and the inner workings of the organization will be invaluable this year. He will also be able to pass off some of that knowledge to Andrey Kuzmenko as he makes his own transition.
The chemistry between Andrey Kuzmenko and Podkolzin will be something to keep an eye on. While it’s not clear at this moment if they will be playing on the same line, the two did spend a few years on the same team back in Russia. It could be the start of a dangerous partnership.
Podkolzin was making the media laugh when he dubbed Kuzmenko as “big Garly”, a nod to current Canucks forward Conor Garland. While Canucks fans would love to see Kuzmenko have an impact similar to Garland, especially at 5-on-5, there will be some major differences in play that Kuzmenko will have to adjust to.
When asked about the biggest differences between the KHL and the NHL, Podkzolin — who would know better than anyone — had the following to say.
“Speed, the player’s level, all things are stronger, the pass is stronger, the shots are stronger, stronger and bigger defenceman but the most important thing is speed.”
The good news for Kuzmenko is that he will have teammates that have made that transition before and help him navigate it well, just as Podkolzin did himself a year ago.
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