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What is next for your Canucks’ 2020/21 Overseas Prospects?

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Where will they land for their 2021/22 hockey seasons?

#92 Vasily Podkolzin roughs it up with a Swiss player during an exhibition game between the Russian and Swiss International Mens’ Ice Hockey teams on May 1st, 2021 in Switzerland.
Photo by RvS.Media/Robert Hradil/Getty Images

The playoffs ended for all Vancouver Canucks’ overseas prospects yesterday. The last man standing, defenceman Toni Utunen, was eliminated in the Semi Finals of the Finnish Liiga post season.

Here is a look at how everyone’s seasons ended and what their 2021/22 seasons likely shape up to be for each one.

First up, Vancouver’s Russian properties.

VASILY PODKOLZIN

The Canucks’ ‘numero uno’ prospect finally broke free of the shackles of his KHL head coach Valeri Bragin. He lead SKA in playoffs’ offense netting six goals and five assists for 11 points in 16 postseason games.

His ‘when-it-counts’ resume now includes this power forward crash-the-net goal.

He is the lone across-the-water potential future YVR resident to still have some meaningful ice wars on his calendar. He has been selected to represent Russia at the upcoming 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship (WC) to be held in Latvia from May 21st through June 6th.

In a recent pre-WC exhibition match against Belarus, he showed off his deft and sneaky passing ability setting up a teammate for this pretty power play goal.

The IIHF tournament will be his final obligation under his now expired KHL contract. He will eventually sign an entry level contract with Vancouver which will take effect for the 2021/22 NHL season. Let the 2022 NHL Rookie of the Year talk start now though.

NIKITA TRYAMKIN

The soap opera that surrounded the Canucks’ and this big friendly giant of a hockey player ended in a permanent divorce just when a reconciliation appeared imminent. According to Canucks’ insider Rick Dhaliwal, the remarriage talks ended over a dispute about take-home pay. Have a listen.

Although Canucks’ Nation was divided over whether or not Tryamkin was worth the pursuit, it is hard to deny that his physical play and ability to fight and intimidate are not in abundance on Vancouver’s current roster.

The Yekaterinburg native decided to sign a two-year extension with his hometown KHL club Avtomobilist. When his new KHL contract ends he will be a 29-year-old NHL free agent. It appears he will garner little or no NHL interest at that stage of his hockey life cycle.

Goodbye Nikita. We hardly knew you.

DMITRY ZHUKENOV

At the beginning of the European 2020/21 season, I decided to take this center prospect off my overseas watch list. He had not played in the KHL since the 2017/18 season and even then he had only geared up for an unproductive 15 games for Avangard of Russia’s top professional hockey league.

After nearly two seasons toiling in the VHL (Russia’s AHL-equivalent) his current contract holder Avtomobilist ran into injury problems late in their season and he finally got a call-up back to the KHL. After the promotion, I decided to again keep a bit of an eye on him since I was already watching his teammate Nikita Tryamkin play.

He performed above expectations mostly in a top-six role both as a center and right-winger. He also was given minutes on Avtomobilist’s power play and penalty-killing units. He managed to put up 3 mesh benders and 2 apples for 5 points in 11 regular season games.

He was then held pointless in Avtomobilist’s brief post season run of 5 games. He did earn a two-year contract extension with the KHL automakers. He will be age 26 at the end of the contract. I think it is safe to once again scratch him off my tracking list. I recommend you do so as well.

Farewell again, Dmitry. The old “Z” is dead to me. Go join your very tall teammate in hockey oblivion.

DMITRY ZLODEYEV

Let us move onto a Dmitry well worth keeping an eye on. The new “Z”.

This 19-year-old feisty and talented 2020 7th round draft pick certainly has shown so far that he may end up as a center in the Canucks’ bottom-six forward group one day. He was playing so well in the MHL (Russia’s equivalent of Canada’s junior CHL) that he was promoted as an 18-year-old to their pro VHL club. He scored seven goals in 19 games in his first kick-at-the-can playing against men. He then ran into some injury problems and by the time he was ready to take to the ice again his VHL club had been eliminated from their playoffs.

His MHL junior club though was still active in their post-season. He joined them for the remainder of their playoffs’ run. Coming off a long-term injury, he did appear rusty and maybe a half-step behind his teammates. He played a bottom-six role on the team and was a plus four in 11 postseason games. He only managed to score one goal and four points but did help lead his junior club to their first ever MHL championship.

Zlodeyev should be fully healthy for the start of next season’s training camp. You should expect him to begin in the VHL and eventually to at least get a cup of coffee in the KHL sometime during the 2021/22 hockey season. It should be fun to watch him develop over the next couple of years.

ARTYOM MANUKYAN

After a stellar junior career in the MHL, the little Brendan Gallagher-like right winger’s KHL pro career appeared to be gaining traction under Avangard head coach Bob Hartley. Then he suffered a serious injury to his right wrist/hand in an exhibition game in August 2019. Following surgery and a long rehabilitation, he returned to Hartley’s KHL line-up in February 2020. He earned 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games and seemed poised to claim a spot in Hartley’s top-six forward group. Then on a relatively innocuous play he seriously reinjured the same wrist/hand.

He tried to make a comeback for the 2020/21 KHL season but he was diminished physically and did not make the team and was banished to Avangard’s MHL club. He had ongoing injury problems which limited him to seventeen games and he produced only two goals and two assists.

A couple of days ago Avangard bid farewell to Manukyan declining to re-sign him. It appears unlikely that he will rebound enough to get back on the Canucks’ prospect radar. I am taking him off my watch list for the 2021/22 season. You probably should do so too.

The birthland of the Sedins housed three Canucks’ prospects this season and all three remain solid prospects going forward.

Let us start with the one who is closest to possibly making an NHL impact with the Canucks.

LINUS KARLSSON

This Tre Kronor product had a breakout season in the Allsvenskan league. He fired home 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in 52 regular-season games. He then exceeded that production pace in the playoffs tallying eight goals and seven assists for 15 points in 11 playoff games.

His Allsvenskan team Karlskoga was a favourite to make it to the Championship Final but they lost their starting goalie to injury and that hurt their chances. His club was down 6-1 with under 10 minutes to go in the third period of the deciding Game 7 of their Semi Finals’ series against rival Bjorkloven. Karlsson then tried to will the game into his club’s win column. His team came very close to tieing the game but then fell just short as their opponent scored into their empty net twice to make it an 8-5 final score.

When I was watching the latter half of the third period unfold all I could think of was would Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final ended differently had the current Karlsson been on the ice for Vancouver. I know. Different league. Different time. But still.

Karlsson yesterday signed a two-year contract with Skelleftea of the SHL. If he continues his development and production in Sweden’s top professional league then expect the Canucks to sign him to an ELC contract. CapFriendly states the Canucks must sign him to an ELC contract by June 1st, 2022. The SHL contract runs through the 2022/23 season. I don’t think the SHL contract prohibits the Canucks from signing Karlsson to an ELC on or before June 1st, 2022. However, I have not yet been able to determine this with certainty. It would certainly be disappointing if it did mean Vancouver loses his NHL rights.

ARVID COSTMAR

This 19-year-old 2019 seventh-round draft pick has blossomed since the Canucks picked him at the very tail end of the prospect sweepstakes. He immediately and unexpectedly turned into a Swedish junior league offensive machine. This season he found himself elevated to the SHL. While he spent a lot of his time as the club’s thirteenth forward or on their fourth line with very limited minutes, he finished the season as a regular penalty killer and was starting to get top-six minutes and power play time as well. He was just beginning to get comfortable as an everyday pro player when he, unfortunately, hurt his shoulder that required season-ending surgery.

The apex of his season was scoring two goals in the 2021 U20 World Junior Championship tourney and establishing himself as an potential effective future NHL pest. This was his second tally of the meet-up.

Here he evoked memories of retired Canuck Jarko Ruutu.

Even his potential future NHL teammate Vasily Podkolzin was cut no slack.

Costmar signed a one year contract extension with Linkoping of the SHL recently. If he recovers fully from his shoulder surgery, you should expect him to develop over the next year into a top six center for his club with his fair share of special teams time on both the power play and penalty kill. If he improves further as I forecast then plan on the Canucks signing him to an ELC at the end of next season.

VIKTOR PERSSON

This offensive right handed defenceman was signed, sealed but never delivered to play for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL during the 2020/21 season. Covid 19 likes to disrupt the best laid plans of everyone including hockey players.

He did manage to cobble together twenty-seven games played between the Swedish top junior league and their AHL-equivalent pro league. He bent the twine six times and added nine assists for fifteen points. He also dressed as a 7th defenceman for Brynas in the SHL but saw only one brief shift during the four games he put his gear on for.

He is currently unsigned for the 2021/22 season. It will be interesting to see if he tries again to play in North America or stays in Sweden. Wherever he ends up playing, Canucks’ fans should keep an eye on him. Right handed offensive defencemen with elite skating ability are rare.

Meanwhile in Lapland, two Canucks’ prospects toiled this season.

TONI UTUNEN

The high point of Toni Utunen’s hockey career may end up being the overtime goal he scored on Mikey DiPietro eliminating Canada from the 2019 WJC.

His offence has been mostly invisible at the pro Liiga level. This season was his pro highpoint as he notched two goals and four assists for six points in fifty-one games played.

He did score his first ever professional playoffs’ goal this season to his credit. It was a nice backhand bar down shot that gives me some hope that he may still have some more offence in his game to give on the ice.

Now Utunen’s game was never about him putting points on the board. He was drafted as he was viewed as a defence first specialist who is reliable in his own end and can make a good first pass. Still he probably needs to produce more offence than he has in Finland to play in the NHL. According to Capfriendly, Vancouver has to sign him to an ELC by June 1st, 2022 or lose his NHL rights.

Utunen recently turned age 21 and has played three seasons in the Finnish Liiga. He has never risen above being a third pairing defenceman to-date. That said, it might be time to sign him to an ELC and bring him over to North America to see how his game translates on the ice surface on this side of the pond. It may be though that he is no longer high on Canucks’ management’s radar. I expect he will re-sign with Tappara for one more season and the Canucks will make a final decision on his NHL potential at the end of next season.

JONI JURMO

Joni Jurmo is the fresh left handed Finn defenceman in Vancouver’s prospect pool. He is essentially the opposite prospect of his Finnish counterpart Utunen. He has lots of pop in his offensive game. His issue, like most young defencemen, will be whether he can learn to defend well enough to play at the NHL level eventually.

At the tender age of 18 this season he was already too good for the Finnish top junior league but not quite good enough to stick in the top pro Liiga. He did settle in nicely in the pro Mestis league (Finland’s equivalent of the AHL). He got over twenty minutes per game of ice time and tallied three goals and five assists for eight points in ten regular season Mestis games.

He scored his first ever pro playoffs’ goal and also tallied one assist for two points in two Mestis playoffs’ games.

Jurmo is already a large physical package. He is currently listed at 6’4” and 198 lbs. He recently turned age 19. Once he fills out his frame, he will be very hard to stop.

He signed with a new Liiga hockey organization yesterday. The contract is for two seasons and the Canucks are in agreement with same. If all goes well in his development look for the Canucks to sign and bring him to North America for the 2023/24 hockey season.

The Czech Republic hosts one overseas Canucks’ prospect currently.

KAREL PLASEK

This sixth round 2019 left winger prospect is firmly on Vancouver’s prospect bubble. He turns age 21 this summer and in his third Czech Extraliga pro season had his best numbers yet. However, those numbers totaled only six goals and ten points in forty-four regular season games. So far he has only put the puck across the goal line eleven times in one-hundred and eleven regular season games played in the Czech Republic’s top professional hockey league. This season he was also held pointless in eight playoffs’ games and finished a minus five in the post season.

The Canucks have until the summer of 2023 to make a final decision on whether or not to sign him to an ELC. Unless he catches fire offensively in the Extraliga soon they are almost certain to pass on him.

PETRUS PALMU

I was surprised that Palmu and the Canucks did not agree to mutually terminate his contract during the summer of 2020. Probably the Covid crisis played a part in it not happening then.

I did not track Palmu closely this season. He switched from a Finnish Liiga club to a new team in the top German pro league. He put up an underwhelming nine goals and twenty-two points playing thirty-seven games in the DEL (Deutsches Eishockey Liga).

Palmu’s ELC contract expires in July and he will become an RFA. The Canucks will not qualify him and will let him walk. He will likely then play out the rest of his hockey career in Europe.

He signed yesterday with his fourth euro team in four seasons this time back in Finland again. He would have only been allowed to sign the contract with Vancouver’s consent. Coincidentally, he will be a teammate of Joni Jurmo next season. Hopefully, he does not fill Jurmo’s head with trash talk about his own short time in the Canucks’ organization.

2021/2022

The Vancouver Canucks had twelve prospects play their entire hockey seasons overseas this season.

One (Podkolzin) will start his NHL career next season.

Five (Zlodeyev, Karlsson, Costmar, Persson, Jurmo) bear close watching as they all appear so far to have legitimate NHL potential.

Two (Utunen, Plasek) appear to be on the prospect bubble and do not look to be worthy of ELC contracts to-date.

Four (Tryamkin, Zhukenov, Manukyan, Palmu) will never/never again wear the blue and green uniform of the Canucks going forward.

The Vancouver Canucks currently have eight picks in the upcoming July 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Some of those new players picked will almost certainly be spending their 2021/22 hockey seasons playing overseas in Europe. They will replace some or all of those former overseas prospects whose names Canucks’ Nation will soon forget. Some of those players also may eventually become important contributors to the Canucks’ future success.