We haven’t heard from Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin since the autumn. At training camp he had a Russian interpreter riding shot-gun on certain days, but since then he’s remained unobtainable from an interview standpoint. Until today. His English was impressive.
“I’m really happy to be here, great coach, great teammates, great organization,” Podkolzin said Thursday morning. “I’m still learning every day about English, about hockey as a player, as a person, it’s really good and I’m happy to be here. The old guys, the new guys, all have been great and I appreciate it.”
The 20-year-old from Moscow has 14 goals and 12 assists in 77 games this season, one that has seen gradual improvement since the start, particularly in the 2nd half following the arrival of head coach Bruce Boudreau on December 6th. “Pods” had six points in his first 23 games under coach Travis Green and twenty points since, with a noticeable boost in confidence over the most recent three weeks.
“I remember when I met with (Alexander) Ovechkin, he said that Bruce can help me in my career as a player and like a person too,” Pods said. Ovechkin played for Boudreau for 4-plus seasons early in his career with the Capitals. “He’s a great coach, I’m happy to be working with him and I hope we will work with him next season.”
He’s clearly fond of Boudreau and his positive reinforcement. When asked later about his favourite English word(s) so far, Pods answered “Bruce, there it is”, the popular chant after Vancouver Canucks goals at home games.
Thursday morning, Boudreau discussed Podkolzin’s game in detail, including details about his improvement on the defensive end.
“He’s good on the boards, but he’s gonna get better, because he’s gonna get bigger and he’s gonna get stronger,” Boudreau said. “He’s gonna be a hard guy to handle in the next couple years.”
At one point Pods saw some energetic creativity in late February when briefly lined up with fellow Europeans Nils Höglander and Elias Pettersson. Unfortunately, their defensive shortcomings, particularly from Höglander, forced Boudreau to break the line up. Despite being short-lived, the “Baltic” line brought a burst of confidence.
More recently Podkolzin has seen consistent top-6 forward minutes working with a variety of linemates.
“I’ve gotten a lot more ice time with Bo (Horvat), “Pearce” (Tanner Pearson) got injury, I think so” Pods said. “Playing has been fun and really good teammates, whether JT Miller or Elias Pettersson, it’s really fun to play, and again, I’m going to just continue playing my game and I will be better.”
To get a taste of some North American playoff action, in arguably the 2nd hardest postseason hockey tournament in the world, Podkolzin is slated to play for Abbotsford in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs.
“It’s good extra games for me, I think so, I talked to Bruce after the deadline and he said ‘it’s good for you, good for your experience’,” Podkolzin said. “I hope I get to bring something, some good hockey for Abbotsford.”