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Canucks’ Top 25 Under 25 (2022 Edition): #3 Vasily Podkozlin

How big of a leap can he make in Year 2?

NHL: SEP 25 Flames at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks right wing Vasily Podkolzin (92) looks up ice during their preseason NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena on September 25, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via 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 April 15th, 1998.

Despite a bumpy road to get here, it’s hard not to be pleased with Vasily Podkolzin’s rookie season with the Canucks.

After being drafted 10th overall in 2019, Podkolzin spent two seasons toiling on the fourth line for one of the best teams in the KHL.

Most top-ranked prospects in North America are accustomed to playing major minutes for their respective junior or NCAA teams. That wasn’t the case for Podkolzin.

However, there were signs that the young Russian was ready for the NHL spotlight.

Podkolzin didn’t play much in the KHL, but he shone in the playoffs, posting 14 points in 20 playoff games across two seasons. Pretty impressive considering that he had 19 points in 65 career KHL regular season games.

When he came to North America, he was immediately able to showcase his skills to Canucks’ fans.

Now, Podkolzin’s rookie season wasn’t all smooth sailing. Even during his interview with the media at the end of last season, the youngster admitted that there’s room to grow.

“I think I could be better for the team,” Podkolzin told the media. “I gotta be ready and be better for next season.”

Although there were stretches of uneven play for the youngster, he finished last season strong.

Over his last 15 games, Podkolzin posted a mundane four goals and 10 points. The biggest takeaway though was how his overall game was beginning to flourish.

The rookie had just three assists through his first 40 games. Over the last 15 games, Podkolzin had six assists, and five of those were primary assists.

As the injuries piled up, Podkolzin got an opportunity in the top six. He didn’t look out of place, and he averaged more than 15 minutes per night during those 15 games, when the Canucks were fighting and scrapping for a playoff spot.

If that’s a sign of things to come, the Canucks are in good shape long-term with Podkolzin.

What’s Next for Podkolzin?

We know that Podkolzin’s role is going to increase with the Canucks heading into the season.

How exactly his role increases is still unknown.

Under Boudreau last season, the 21-year-old did see some time on both the second power play unit and the penalty kill. However, he’s been used sparingly in those roles so far during the preseason.

There are multiple columns out there that are pinning Podkolzin as a breakout candidate for the Canucks in 2022-23. And, if you read our post about point predictions for each Canucks player this season, our predictions for Podkolzin averaged out at him registering 47 points this season.

Count me among those who don’t see that kind of breakout for the sophomore in 2022-23.

So far in the preseason, Podkolzin has been playing alongside Bo Horvat on what appears to be a de facto third line. He also hasn’t seen much special teams time.

That isn’t to say Podkolzin isn’t going to be an impact player for the Canucks.

His 200-foot awareness is astoundingly astute for someone with as little NHL experience as him. He also has a terrific shot, size, and speed to go with his on-ice awareness.

The Canucks have a deep forward group filled with other players who know how to score. Sticking Podkolzin on a matchup line with Horvat might be the perfect spot for him.

“His potential is endless,” Horvat said. “His ceiling, I don’t think he has one. He’s just going to keep getting better and better. His work ethic is going to put him over the top.”