The Vancouver Canucks will continue to try and harness the power and raw talent of 21-year-old Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin, who on Monday night played in his first NHL game for the club since November 21st.
In his return from the American Hockey League, “Pods” played 15:31, twenty-seven seconds of that on the power play, had four hits, three shots-on-goal and blocked one against the New Jersey Devils. He was involved in three high danger scoring chances.
“I like that kid,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet said postgame. “It’s our job to even develop (him) more. He’s a bull out there, he’s a give-and-go … at the end there, he won a battle, he knocked a guy over and kept that puck to get it out. That’s a big play, so yeah, I like this kid a lot. You know, we’re gonna keep working with this kid.”
Vancouver’s 1st-round, 10th-overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, Podkolzin played two seasons as a teenager for St. Petersburg SKA in Russia’s top Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He was the youngest player in the league when he made his debut in 2018.
During the two seasons he played in Russia finishing out his contract after he was drafted, Podkolzin played in St. Pete’ with current Canucks forward Andrei Kuzmenko, who recently signed a two-year, $5.5-miliion per season extension with Vancouver. Podkolzin still has a year remaining on his entry-level deal that pays him $925,000 next season.
That relationship should prove invaluable. Kuzmenko has shown himself to be the real deal; Podkolzin could learn a lot patterning himself after his teammate. “Koozy” obviously has the benefit of experience and maturity at age-27. The comfort factor and the communication factor will play a big part in Podkolzin’s development.
“It’s great, it’s good for me,” Podkolzin said about having his countrymen around, upon skating with Kuzmenko and fellow Canucks Russian Ilya Mikheyev during the preseason.
At the time of training camp skates, the three all agreed that getting to the playoffs was the top priority. That will have to wait, but using the remainder of the 2022-’23 schedule to continue seeing improvement in Podkolzin’s 200-foot game will be a focus. Consider it live NHL training and development for the next 32 games.
Mikheyev won’t be a part of the experience, he was shut down last month for the remainder of the season with a chronic knee injury.
Podkolzin, who tallied seven goals and eleven assists in 28 AHL games this season, will try his hardest to avoid going back to the Abbotsford Canucks. If nothing else, it should be entertaining to watch.