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Canucks Roll Call: Vasily Podkolzin, No Longer the ‘Lonely’ Russian

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Vancouver Canucks, Vasily Podkolzin
Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, with his impoved English, meets the media in late April.

Canucks Roll Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the recent campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Vancouver. Today we feature forward Vasily Podkolzin.

Position: Left Wing, Right Wing

2021-’22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 79-14-12-26, 26 PIM

Contract Status: Two seasons remaining with an entry-level salary cap hit of $925,000 per.

Season Synopsis

Vancouver Canucks forward Vasily Podkolzin, up until now the lone Russian on the Canucks roster, definitely isn’t lonely, he’s a very young married man who turns 21-years-of-age on Friday, June 24th. Happy Birthday!

“Pods” already received a bonus gift, maybe one he had a hand in creating, the impending arrival of a Russian buddy and former SKA St. Petersburg teammate Andrey Kuzmenko.

We’ve talked about adjustments a lot in these reviews, whether it’s players who came in via trade or free agency, or even existing Vancouver roster players going through the head coaching change that occurred back on December 6th, 2021. The upheaval must have been even harder for a rookie Russian, light on the language and skating on smaller ice in a market very far from home.

So it should come as no surprise that Podkolzin’s season had its ups and down, mostly via his learning experience. At one point he was sent to the press box to watch hockey rather than play it, as head coach Bruce Boudreau decided he’d had enough of a weak 200-foot game. Part of that had to do with the play of linemate Nils Höglander, who was an even worse violator of the two-way principals.

But as his teammates will tell you, and a handful of them did over-and-over, this kid has skill and he has determination. They love his shot, they love his physicality and as Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat said, probably more than once, “the sky’s the limit” for Podkolzin.

We’ll skip analytics this time out; they’ll mean even more once the player has a grasp of the game he’s expected to play, of systems, and of 200-foot responsibilities. But that’s not to say he should be ashamed, he actually had surprisingly good possession numbers, he outscored his ‘expected’ numbers, and he drew 10-minutes more in penalties than he took.

HIghlights

For VHN, because we had so much fun watching and promoting what we labelled the “Baltic Line”, Podkolzin’s brief time spent with Höglander and Elias Pettersson on a line was a highlight, especially from an entertainment standpoint. The lack of 200-foot game for “Hoagie” and “Pods” pretty much killed the mid-season concept, but for flashes of brilliance, the threesome was extremely fun to watch.

Podkolzin’s hottest streak came when the team needed it most, during the stretch drive. It also came at that point late in the season when one could really see his confidence growing and solidifying. As we all know, this game and everything else for that matter, is about confidence.

Pods started to show signs of the force that he could become with an eight-point performance over a five game stretch in April. Yes, two of the games were against the utterly confused Arizona Coyotes, but the playoff hungry Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars were also included in that stretch.

Lowlights

No reason to dwell. This is a process, and we’re aware of his deficiencies. The faster he eliminates them, the more valuable he becomes.

What the future holds

No guarantees, but the upside for “Pods” is tremendous. The Vancouver Canucks coaches and management must be chomping at the bit to see what Podkolzin brings to the table in 2022-’23. His competitiveness, his heavy shot, and his overall skill set.

Could he play with fellow Russian Kuzmenko? That would involve both playing on their off-wings, because “Kooz” is a right shot who plays the left side. If it wasn’t popular already, Alexander Ovechkin made playing the off-wing a craze for a generation or two of young, star-struck Russian hockey players. Go with it.

According to his agent, Kuzmenko’s English is further along than Podkolzin’s, but it’s another area the two can help one another. That said, it’ll be nice for both to have a sidekick around to share the native tongue and culture.

Simply put, it’s an exciting time for the club and for Pods, and the Vancouver Canucks have this player on his entry-level for two more seasons.

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