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The Russians Are Coming!

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KHL updates on Canucks’ prospects Podkolzin, Tryamkin and Manukyan.

2019 NHL Combine
Canucks’ Russian stud prospect Vasily Podkolzin.
Photo by Katie Friedman/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks currently have three prospects playing overseas in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The trio includes 2019 1st round pick Vasily Podkolzin, 2014 3rd round pick Nikita Tryamkin and 2018 6th round pick Artyom Manukyan.

PODKOLZIN

Canucks’ fans have been undergoing a lot of angst at the seemingly haphazard Russian-style development of the young hockey prodigy. He has been bounced around from his KHL club to their AHL-like development team, their juniors-like U20 team and also onto various Russian U20 International squads over two seasons.

He’d played 20 KHL games in his career with nary a point. He was given almost no playing time when in the top Russian league and was usually stapled to the bench. That appears to have now come to an end.

The Canucks’ future Red Bull Russian 18 year old forward, who plays like a battering-ram, finally tallied his first KHL goal last game.

The dam having now burst, Podkolzin today tallied his second KHL goal in as many games.

I expect that he now will stick in the KHL with no more bouncing around. He should play a big part in his KHL club SKA’s pursuit of the Gagarin Cup, the KHL’s equivalent of North America’s Stanley Cup. They are a favourite to win it. The KHL playoffs start at the beginning of March. He will get some exposure to pressure-packed pro games this spring.

He has one more season left on his KHL contract. Fans’ can expect him to arrive at Canucks’ training camp in September 2021. He should by then be NHL-ready to play as a top 6 forward, perhaps even on the first line.

TRYAMKIN

Now playing in his 8th professional season, the Canucks’ ‘veteran’ 25 year old prospect is said to want to return to the Canucks and continue his NHL career. The Canucks’ are said to want him back.

The re-marriage is expected to occur sometime in 2020. It could be as early as March but most likely won’t happen until Canucks’ training camp in September.

Tryamkin’s KHL club, Avtomobilist, is now a lock for the playoffs. Their regular season ends on February 27th and their post season begins at the start of March. If his team is eliminated in the first round he could be available to the Canucks by mid-March. If his club wins the Gagarin Cup then he wouldn’t be available until mid-April, which is after the start of the NHL playoffs.

Technically, his KHL contract does not expire until April 30th. So his KHL club could prevent him from joining the Canucks until May 1st. In the past, KHL teams have allowed players to join NHL teams as soon as their KHL seasons ended not holding them to the actual contract expiry date. Indeed, this is what happened when Tryamkin joined the Canucks at the tail end of their 2015/16 season playing 13 games for them. But a recent KHL rule change now dissuades teams from doing so. If Avtomobilist grants him early freedom this time around they will lose their exclusive KHL future rights to the Big Friendly Giant.

If Jim Benning can figure out some way to have Tryamkin join the Canucks for their current playoffs-push and a hopefully long playoffs-run, he will certainly do so. This time of year is a war of attrition and the more healthy bodies you have on hand the better your chances of success.

Tryamkin is a left-handed right-side defenceman who is comfortable playing on the left side as well. He has played 20 minutes per game in the KHL this season primarily as a shut-down defenceman. He is physical and owns the front of the net in his own end. He skates very well and makes a good first pass out of his defensive zone. He could form an imposing Twin Towers defence pairing with Tyler Myers or slide in next to Quinn Hughes and cover for him defensively while he wanders in the offensive zone. He also is unafraid to drop his gloves.

NHL: MAR 16 Stars at Canucks
Nikita Tryamkin fights Jamie Benn after Benn took exception to being annihilated by a BFG body check.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MANUKYAN

The little Armenian Russian is said to be 5’7” and to weigh 139 lbs. However, he plays like he is a lot bigger. He loves to hit. He had 69 hits in 62 games during his KHL rookie season last year, despite only averaging a time-on-ice of 9:45 per game. He then ramped it up with 36 hits in 18 playoff games despite an even lower time-on-ice of 7:54 per game in the playoffs.

His sophomore season had been derailed by a serious upper body injury. He received the injury in a KHL pre-season game last August. You can see the injury happen at the end of the clip below and then you can see that he is unable to even push a partially open bench door open further with his right appendage.

While it looked like a right shoulder or arm injury, the best information I’ve been able to glean since then is that he suffered a fractured right hand that required extensive surgery to repair.

He finally played his first regular season game since the injury the other day and today in his second game back he lit the lamp.

The Canucks spent a draft pick on the diminutive right winger because they were intrigued by his prolific 2016/17 MHL junior season when he tallied 39 goals and 105 points in only 60 games for Omskie Yastreby. So far in 86 KHL regular season games prior to this season he had only tallied 4 goals. However, he has only seen the usual limited ice time that young players in the KHL tend to see when they first arrive. He did manage to tally his first KHL playoff goal last season though too.

Manukyan is under contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL for one more season after this one. He actually signed an one-year contract extension with them while he was recovering from his injury.

These three Russians may all be coming to Vancouver soon. You should expect Tryamkin to (re) arrive first in 2020, followed by Podkolzin in 2021 and perhaps Manukyan along with Podkolzin, if he manages to transform his junior production to the pro level.