For a player with high hopes and great expectations, Tuesday night at the Rogers Arena was a huge one for Vancouver Canucks prospect and likely roster addition Vasily Podkolzin. The Canucks first-rounder, tenth overall, from 2019 arrived this summer from Russia after playing the last two-plus seasons with St. Petersburg in the KHL. The moment has arrived for the talented right winger to prove he has what it takes, and thus far through training camp he’s on the right path.
“He’s a hard worker, he pays attention to detail, he wants to learn,” Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green said Tuesday morning. “He’s strong on the puck, we’re gonna try to push his pace a little bit, get him moving, get his feet moving, and these are all things that in young players there’s a lot to learn.”
His heavy shot has impressed his various linemates, his desire to be responsible defensively has caught the eye of the coaches, and his ability to dangle appears to be a natural gift. With no guarantees in life, in hockey, or coming out of training camp, the Tuesday tilt against the expansion Seattle Kraken represented a potential milestone opportunity for the 20-year-old. No better night than this one to do a Podkolzin shift diary, to share with you Vancouver Hockey Now’s (VHN) human (me) isolation camera, keeping an eye and detailing the player’s every move. It’s a pivotal start to the preseason’s final week.
“I like him a lot,” Green added. “Now when you say you like a player, it doesn’t mean that he’s gonna (be) given everything at once.”
Green played Podkolzin in a 4th-line role Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets and the forward finished with 10:07 of ice time. Tuesday night would be different. Podkolzin would be on the “2nd line” with Justin Dowling at centre and Matthew Highmore on the left.
With a double minor to Canucks centre Jason Dickinson at 1:36 followed by a high sticking call to Luke Schenn at 6:02 of the period, it basically meant Podkolzin couldn’t get on the ice because the Canucks were in perpetual penalty kill mode. Twice he hopped on the ice early in the game just seconds before a whistle. There was a lot of sitting around and no actual shifts for the Russian until the 9:41 mark.
9:41-10:18 O-zone draw lost, Seattle break-out, on back-check to front of his net. Canucks ensuing break-out interrupted in the neutral zone, chipped back into Vancouver zone and he came with it. To bench as team heads up ice. Penalty call.
10:18 – Seattle, Adam Larsson – Interference
11:14-12:15 Power play shift. Team rush, angled through neutral zone ahead to left wing boards, moved puck, curled behind net around to right circle. Stayed low, took pass and fired shot from bottom of the RW circle trying to go 5-hole. With a quick release and plenty on it, it was actually not a bad scoring chance considering the tough angle. LW face-off draw, Seattle wins it and clears. Re-group for the Canucks, he comes away with puck, after chip in and Seattle gaining possession, he worked hard on forecheck along LW boards and created a turnover. Seattle regained and cleared. Leaves ice as teammates control possession at their own line.
13:13-13:52 Even strength, LW O-zone faceoff. Seattle wins it, they clear and lose possession up ice. Canucks regroup. Neutral zone play, Podkolzin comes away with puck on the right wing boards as his line creates turnover. Chip and change. Non-event other than keeping his feet moving.
16:08-17:05 D-zone draw, glove side of Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko. Canucks win the draw, but long errant pass goes the length on goal. No icing. Seattle charges, rushes and gains zone. D-zone play under pressure. Podkolzin stays high and at one point attacks right point man and delivers hit that knocks Hadyn FLeury to the ice. Crowd approves. Canucks eventually clear. To bench.
19:32 – O-zone draw, he’s itching to hit the ice. On the bench he’s standing up in anticipation, which he does a lot, looking over his shoulder at coach Green, but Green goes with Bo Horvat’s line. Short shift. Quick whistle.
19:45-20:00 Podkolzin out for neutral zone draw. Seattle wins it and dumps it in. By the time Canucks gather and start up, period ends.
:53-2:38 Canucks win D-zone draw, turn it over on long break-out. Seattle brief possession before they ice it. On LW O-zone draw, Canucks win it again. Podkolzin behind the net does a quick stick-lift to keep possession and work pass to right point. Shot deflected. Vancouver cycles, while in front, an errant pass alludes him out of the zone. Seattle up ice, Canucks on what would be the tail end of a shift, instead turns into a long one. Under pressure. He stays high. Two shots on goal. Delayed penalty call against Vancouver, Canucks finally get a touch.
4:31 – Seattle 1-0. Vince Dunn on the power play.
4:31-5:05 On for centre ice draw following Seattle’s 1-0 goal. Offside Seattle, another draw in the same spot. Seattle controls up ice. Neutral zone chip, Canucks re-group, uneventful.
6:05-6:35 Mixed lines. Carried puck up ice, he chips in. Seattle re-groups as Canucks quick change.
6:57 – Seattle 2-0. Vince Dunn even strength.
7:46-8:13 Over the boards to join effective forecheck. He creates turnover near the slot that results in sustained pressure for the Canucks. Involved along the end boards, on cycle, and freeing up far boards. He wins puck battle and keeps pressure alive. Seattle eventually breaks up and clears.
9:29-10:25 Up ice along right wings boards with sweet move to avoid check and gain offensive zone. For second shift in a row, Podkolzin is the main catalyst on forecheck and puck possession down low. Battle behind net into left wing corner. He spins in front and has puck just out of reach in front behind a defenceman. Behind the net he gets hit and tripped up by Adam Larsson but is right back at it. Canucks D-man Jack Rathbone trips and falls inside line on the LW side, fans thought he got dumped, possession lost and Seattle finally clears. (Next team shift, an apparent make-up call, as Seattle’s Jeremy Lauzon goes off for holding.)
11:44-12:40 Offensive zone draw on the power play shift. Canucks win it but Rathbone loses puck under pressure on left point. Two subsequent Vancouver rushes – first one ends in Seattle clear and second one ends with Oliver Ekman-Larsson taking a shot from the slot on the rush. Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer covers.
Vancouver – Dickinson – Boarding – 13:27 Waiting game again as penalty kill does it’s business, or in this case, fails to do so.
14:22 – Seattle 3-0. Ryan Donato on the power play.
17:03-17:22 Hops on, trailing play, as Kraken head up ice, Canucks steal, on quick break-out, Podkolzin ends up with puck at right point. Heads straight to net, fakes shot and toe drags around Kraken D Mark Giordano, gets to Grubauer and on backhand deke the puck hops off his stick just as he’s about to stuff it home. Had Grubauer beat and puck trickles past far post. Hadyn Fleury goes off for cross checking on the play.
18:51-19:45 On power play, lines up along left wing boards as Canucks lose draw and Seattle clears the length. On the ensuing rush Vancouver gains the zone. Shots deflected, pressure low. He ends up behind the net with what was initially looking like a left post wraparound chance that sealed up. He sends it to the point. Shot, scramble. He ends up with it on far boards and manages to get a high risk cross-ice pass to Tyler Myers who’s shot is blocked and Seattle able to clear.
:36-1:35 Joined play, pushed puck up LW boards through defender in Neutral zone. Seattle gathered, re-grouped and rushed, turned it over, teams exchanged puck. Once with possession on subsequent rush he kept cycle alive in left wing corner, delivered jarring hit on big Larsson to free it up. This led to more in-zone possession. Seattle able to finally chip out. Changed.
4:50-5:20 Trailing play through neutral zone, brief blueline forecheck, Seattle alludes, cough it up entering Vancouver zone, subsequent rush leads to 3-on-2 with Podkolzin on far wing. Puck to boards, him to the front of the net where cross-ice pass too hard and too far out of reach. As puck comes to RW boards, a whistle on a penalty call. One minor to each team following a scrum.
6:56-7:55 On forecheck again to start sequence. Almost a steal for him at the blueline, puck sneaks through his legs. Seattle forced to circle back and start over. Finally up ice they gain the zone but lose the puck as they near LW circle. Podkolzin a factor on the break-up. Ensuing Canucks rush ends in turnover entering the zone. Last forechecker off.
10:12-11:10 Coasting back to cover points as Seattle gains zone. Hovering to watch left point, drifts to slot and blocks shot from right point with a glove. Seemed startled. Quick ouch. Canucks gain possession and begin rush. He cruises up LW boards after taking pass, gains speed, goes behind net and tries wraparound to RW post. Grubauer saves and covers.
Back to back penalties against Vancouver keeps Podkolzin on the bench.
19:24 – Seattle 4-0. Nathan Bastian, even strength.
19:24-20:00 Meaningless shift as teams exchange puck and run out the clock with Canucks collecting back in their own end. Final score: Seattle Kraken 4, Vancouver Canucks 0, despite the Canucks outshooting the Kraken 38-25. Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer the game’s first star.
Podkolzin: 14:29 of ice time, 3:11 on the power play. Three shots on goal, four hits, one blocked shot. The stats don’t say enough. He was arguably the Vancouver Canucks best forward on the ice.
“Pods was good, he looked really good,” said teammate Jason Dickinson postgame. “He’s got a great opportunity. He’s being given the chance to take the pucks in, they don’t want him to just chip and chase, they don’t want him to just be a forechecker, they want him to play his game, so, it’s good for him to have that confidence from the coaching staff to do what he does best.”
“Very good, I thought that was his best game,” Green stated afterward. “His pace was higher, he got his feet moving, he was physical. It’s funny, when you get your feet moving, a lot of things open up in your game, not just with the puck, away from the puck, allowing you to use your strengths and be physical.”
“He was great,” stated his centre Justin Dowling. “Had a lot of confidence with the puck. He’s fast too, when he gets moving you can kind of get out of his way and let him do his thing. That one move he made, stuck his knee out and drove to the net, it shows his confidence level and he’s a young player too. Thought he was great tonight.”
“Yeah,” Green concurred, “we kind of talked about that this morning, play with confidence, play fast and don’t worry about the rest.”