The word on the Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Vasili Podkolzin is that he’s totally blue-chip; that he works hard every shift; that he plays with energy; that his motor just doesn’t quit; that he’s fearless; and, that he’s defensively responsible. Why then is he getting limited ice time in the KHL with St. Petersburg’s SKA?
Podkolzin was chosen 10th overall during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and currently is the top prospect in the Vancouver chain; however, he had signed a two-year deal with the SKA club out of St. Petersburg when he was drafted. It was just assumed that he’d finish out that contract before he moved to North America. But things have gotten complicated for him in his homeland with his lack of ice time.
Podkolzin’s Ice Time and Play This Season
Until recently, although there’s no indication that he’d not played well, the word is that he’s only getting playing time on the team’s fourth line. That can’t help his development nor can it make the Canucks happy. In fact, given his limited time on the ice, he’s scored only a goal and three assists in 18 games.
However, those stats are a bit deceptive. Podkolzin in fact had scored a goal and an assist during his first three games; however, in the 15 games he’s played since those first three games, he’s only had two assists (and both on the same game). His ice time has dropped from over 20 minutes per game to just over eight minutes per game and he’s playing with other fourth-liners – not the easiest situation to put up big numbers.
There are two schools of thought on this question of his ice time.
School of Thought One: SKA’s Management is Trying to Keep Podkolzin in Russia
In an article in mid-September in nucksmisconduct.com, a rumor was put forth in the shape of two rhetorical questions. Was Podkolzin’s ice time being limited during the regular season by his head coach Valeri Bragin regardless of his good play? And, is it possible that Bragin is under orders from SKA’s management to do put pressure on Podkolzin to sign an extension with the KHL club instead of inking an Entry-Level Contract with the Canucks’ in May 2021?
I have no indication that’s the case and I’m certainly not in a position to know; however, it’s an interesting premise.
School of Thought Two: Podkolzin Is Tired and a Bit Over His Head
Today in Twitlonger, TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal reported that Podkolzin had been demoted to the VHL.
SKA St. Petersburg GM Roman Rotenberg told Dhaliwal that “We are sending him to VHL to get ready for the National junior team, get in shape, work hard and become a leader.” It was reported that the team still believed in Podkolzin’s ability and potential, but want him to “work harder.”
Rotenberg added, “We believe in him, the coaching staff does as well, we are working with him to be a leader.”
Rotenberg believed Podkolzin burnt out a bit from playing big minutes (sometimes over 25 minutes per game) early in the season. However, they believe he will rebound to play a big role on Russia’s World Junior Championship team.
Podkolzin Will Have a Chance to Show his Stuff Soon in North America
Dhaliwal noted in his post today that Canucks fans shouldn’t be discouraged because Podkolzin is still a teenager who’s playing in a men’s league, where it isn’t easy to score points.
He also notes that, over the next few weeks, Podkolzin will get a chance to play for the Russian national junior team coached by Igor Larionov. There he’ll skate against his own age group. Dhaliwal believes Larionov will likely name Podkolzin the team captain.
The World Juniors begin in later December and early January in Red Deer and in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
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