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2020 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #4 Vasily Podkolzin

Will he be able to produce significant offensive numbers at the NHL level?

Canada v Russia: Semifinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
#19 Vasily Podkolzin of Russia reverse hits #21 Kaiden Guhle of Canada during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship semifinals at Rogers Place on January 4, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada.
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Welcome to the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings, the series that makes you wish you were under 25 again. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1996. Five staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, CanucksAbbyFan2, Trevor Connors, Markus Meyer) and one former staff writer (Daniel Gee, Elite Prospects) cast votes for the project.

There is little doubt that Vasily Podkolzin will eventually become an NHL player with a long career. What is uncertain is whether or not he will be able to produce enough offence to warrant top six forward minutes on a Stanley Cup contending team. Respected TSN talent evaluators Craig Button and Ray Ferraro both certainly think he will be an effective NHL top six forward.

Most of the confusion results from the haphazard Russian hockey development system which yo-yos young players from league to league and team to team seemingly without reason or purpose. Young players with obvious talent are often left to languish in the KHL with minimal minutes on fourth lines or in the pressbox seemingly stunting their development. When they do get ice time they are instructed to always make the safe play.

So if you look beyond his low offensive output, you see all the attributes of a top-six NHL forward.

He can shoot the puck with pinpoint accuracy.

He is an elite passer.

He hits with force.

He plays with relentless energy.

He crashes the net repeatedly without fear.

He leads with passion and hates to lose.

NHL scouts love him as a player.

I think that once he gets a chance to play with other top players in the NHL, his assists will skyrocket due to the elite finishing ability of those players. Also, his physical crash-the-net style of play is a perfect fit in the NHL but not as conducive to the soft play of the KHL and its lesser Russian leagues.

What’s next for Podkolzin?

Once Russia was eliminated from the World Junior Championship tournament, he headed back to St. Petersburg to finish out his KHL contract. SKA has loaded up on veteran forwards in anticipation of taking a run at winning the Gagarin Cup which is the KHL’s equivalent of the NHL’s Stanley Cup. If he gets into SKA’s line-up again before his contract expires it will almost certainly only be as a fourth-liner with very little ice time.

With the Vancouver Canucks’ 2020-21 regular season scheduled to conclude on May 8th, 2021, it is doubtful he will don the blue-and-green uniform until the Canucks’ break camp in September 2021 for the 2021-22 NHL season.

That said, the Canucks’ number one talent evaluator is ready to pounce on him and get him signed to an NHL Entry Level Contract as soon as he becomes available on May 1st, 2021.

Catch up on the rest of our 2020 edition of the Canucks Top 25 Under 25 list.