The Vancouver Canucks’ top prospect Vasily Podkolzin is starting to get more ice time in the KHL and he is beginning to show his value to a lineup.
During his second full KHL season, Podkolzin is just now beginning to get special teams time with SKA. Through 31 games this season, Podkolzin has played under 13 minutes in 22 of those games. His last two outings have been over 17 minutes of ice time and the main reason is because of his time on the power play.
SKA is beginning to use Podkolzin in the bumper position on the power play unit. He does a lot of work in front of the net as well and that is a place where he looks NHL ready at this very moment. He has great vision with the puck behind the net and does a good job holding his screen around the crease.
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The addition to the power play and penalty kill units appears to have given Podkolzin an abundance of confidence through this last handful of games. Podkolzin has two game-winning goals and three points in his last five games. He and his linemates have been dominating the possession at five-on-five and it could be partially due to the addition of Kirill Marchenko, a player who Podkolzin has said he enjoys playing with in the past.
The line of Podkolzin, Marchenko and Vladislav Tsitsyura has been excellent for SKA over the past couple of weeks since being put together as a trio. Podkolzin is the engine that moves the car on that line. He is always moving to create passing lanes and setting up his teammates while also being the first in on the forecheck.
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A lot of the time he is pointing or calling out to his linemates to be in a certain position or calling things out on the forecheck to indicate where he wants the second man in to go. The line does a good job working the puck out of the board battles, but with the added confidence we are starting to see Podkolzin wheel the zone with possession as he looks to set up a scoring chance.
Some are thinking that this added ice time could be a last-ditch effort from SKA for him to stay in the KHL and sign a contract with them. I don’t think that will happen. Podkolzin’s camp has been quoted saying that he will be coming over to the NHL after this KHL season and many are reporting that he will sign after April 30th.
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It’s an ongoing situation with the Swedish Games being an indicator that the World Championships may take place. Podkolzin has made multiple Russian national teams, so we will hear more about his arrival date to Vancouver over the next few months.
Similar to Nils Hoglander, I have seen a toolbelt of hockey skills on Podkolzin that suggests he could immediately make an impact in an NHL lineup. He will make an immediate impact as a hustle player who can kill penalties and score goals when the opportunities present themselves. Think of a combination of Tyler Motte and Nils Hoglander.
Hoglander is more skilled with the puck on his stick, but both have great vision and make the right decisions with the puck. Podkolzin has improved his speed from last season and physically he is more than ready to be in board battles with NHL competition.
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Vancouver will use him in their top six for years to come. For now, it’s just a waiting game for when he will be able to join the Canucks.
It will be a glorious day when it comes.
We will continue to follow Podkolzin’s KHL season and will be all over the story of him coming to Vancouver whenever it happens.