After a week’s hiatus, it’s time for another edition of the Vancouver Canucks prospects report. Highlights include Vasili Podkolzin and Linus Karlsson’s strong play in the playoffs and Jack Malone’s rise up the Canucks prospect pyramid. The Utica Comets also continue to work through COVID-19 protocols and the seemingly never-ending stream of postponed games.
That and a whole lot more as we continue to recap and analyze the top performances of prospects throughout the Canucks pipeline.
Utica Comets Update
The Comets have now lost nine consecutive games due to the pandemic after exposure during a game on Mar 10 versus the Rochester Americans.
What we are dealing with is an extended circumstance of our original (situation)…We’re just trying to deal with it and get out of it.Ryan Johnson, general manager of the Utica Comets (from ‘Utica Comets still sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols’, Observer-Dispatch, 3/26/21)
After another positive test this week, they remain in quarantine. As of right now, it’s unclear when they will continue playing, which means that even with the new seven-day quarantine period for players entering Canada, the Canucks will still be cut off from their AHL affiliate.
Top prospects Jack Rathbone, Jonah Gadjovich, Will Lockwood, Carson Focht, and Jett Woo have not played hockey for over two weeks, which is not ideal for their development. Needless to say, player development has hit a huge wall in the last month.
The Canucks had two prospects play games in the USHL these past two weeks. The two Jacks, Jackson Kunz and Jack Malone have both stood out this season on their respective teams and continue to drive up their stock on the prospects pyramid. Here is the latest update.
Jack Malone – Youngstown Phantoms
Malone continued his ascent up the USHL leaderboard with another seven points in the five games he played these past two weeks. He has now eclipsed 100 points in his USHL career and is just outside the top-40 in overall points. After 35 games, he has seven goals and 31 points as he marches towards continuing his NCAA career next season with Cornell University.
Next Games: Apr 2/3/4 vs. Greenbay Gamblers
Jackson Kunz – Greenbay Gamblers
After going pointless in four games, Kunz broke out with another three points in three games this past week in three consecutive losses to the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Dubuque Fighting Saints, and Chicago Steel. He also racked up 21 penalty minutes with 17 of them coming in one game against the Lumberjacks where he picked up a fighting major and a game misconduct. His 2020-21 season now stands at 19 goals and 31 points in 41 games.
Next Games: Apr 2/3/4 vs. Youngstown Phantoms
Jacob Truscott joined Aidan McDonough in the offseason this past week when the Michigan Wolverines were forced to bow out of the 2020-21 NCAA Championship due to positive COVID-19 test results within the University of Michigan’s Tier I testing group. His team was scheduled to play against Minnesota Duluth in the Midwest Regional semifinal on Friday. Instead, his season is over and the stacked Wolverines which featured top 2021 NHL Draft prospects Matthew Beniers, Owen Power, and Kent Johnson will have to watch from the sidelines and ponder what could have been.
I’m devastated for these players. These student-athletes have done a wonderful job all year of making sacrifices to get to this point of the year…It’s unfortunate. I don’t completely understand the final decision but I have to respect it. They’ve given so much and to get this opportunity taken away from them, it’s hard to swallow. I know it’s just a game, but it’s extremely important to these young men. It’s two years in a row now we’ve been denied an opportunity to compete in the national championship. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet.Mel Pearson, Graham Family Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach
Truscott was only in his freshman year, so he will get another chance to compete for the championship next season. He finished with one goal and five points in 26 games.
With the NCAA season all but complete and the Comets at a standstill, overseas is where it’s at if want to watch Canucks prospects. In addition to the exploits of Podkolzin in the KHL Playoffs, Karlsson, Toni Utunen, Karel Plasek, Dmitri Zlodeyev, Petrus Palmu, and Joni Jurmo are all still playing games in Europe. That’s a total of seven players, while North America only has two currently playing right now. So with all that said, let’s get to the latest overseas update.
Vasili Podkolzin – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
As Canucks fans eagerly await his debut in the NHL, Podkolzin just continues to show that he can get it done in the playoffs, where the pressure is at its peak. Since SKA St. Petersburg has started its march through the KHL Playoffs, he has been one of their most consistent and hard-working players.
Podkolzin also has produced a lot of offence, playing the role of yo-yo for head coach Valeri Bragin. There are times where he has upwards of 19 minutes of ice but then drops back down to eight in short order. Though that doesn’t seem to deter the big Russian, as he continues to put up points despite his head coach’s confusing distribution of ice time.
Podkolzin is currently on a three-game point streak, and now has three goals and six points in ten games. The soon-to-be 20-year-old has done everything he can in the KHL and is more than ready to showcase his skills in the NHL alongside Bo Horvat or Elias Pettersson. If this is what he can do with an average of 10-12 minutes of ice time, imagine what he could do with a consistent 15-20. Dare to dream, Canucks fans, dare to dream.
SKA St. Petersburg is now in the Western Conference Finals after knocking off Dynamo Moscow and will face either CSKA Moscow or Lokomotiv Yaroslavl who are currently deadlocked at three in their series. Game 7 takes place on Mar 28, so we will find out soon enough who Podkolzin will face next.
Next Games: TBA
Joni Jurmo – Kiekko-Espoo (Mestis)
Unlike Utunen, Jurmo has continued to pile up the points. His point streak is now up to four after posting an assist on Mar 20 against Kiekko-Vantaa, bringing his season total to three goals and eight points in ten games. He seems to have found a home in the Mestis, which is great for his development into a potential top-four defenceman in the NHL. He definitely has the mobility and smarts to do it, so it’s encouraging to see him finally have some consistent success this season after bouncing around the U20 SM-sarja and the Liiga early on.
Next Games: TBD
Dmitri Zlodeyev – MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)
The intriguing young Russian known as Zlodeyev finally returned from a lengthy injury this past week and promptly put up two points in three games, in the playoffs no less. After being sidelined since Feb 5, the rust doesn’t seem to be a problem for him as the two-way forward continues to show everyone why he could be a steal when he makes it to the NHL. His team swept their first-round series against Krasnaya Armiya Moskva, and his presence in the lineup is a big reason why they are in the second round right now.
Next Games: Apr 3/4/7 vs. Tolpar
Toni Utunen – Tappara (Liiga)
After scoring his first goal since the 2018-19 season, Utunen has gone back to his usual zeroes on the scoresheet. No need to panic though, as that’s not usually his game. His game is solid shutdown defence, a la Chris Tanev. He continues to play upwards of 20 minutes a night and is relied upon to be his head coach’s primary penalty killer. So the points are just a bonus on top of all the other good things he does on the ice. Now going into his tenth game without a point, he continues to be stuck on one goal and four points in 44 games so far this season.
Next Games: Mar 30 vs. Karpat, Apr 1 vs. SaiPa, and Apr 6 vs. Hameenlinna
Petrus Palmu – ERC Ingolstadt (DEL)
After a three-game point streak that saw him record four points, Palmu is now mired in a four-game pointless streak, despite firing 15 shots on goal. The 5-foot-6 dynamo is getting his chances, so it’s not like he hasn’t been noticeable. If he continues to shoot the puck, the goals and points will come.
Next Games: Mar 31 vs. Krefeld Pinguine, Apr 1 vs. Kolner, Apr 4 vs. Iserlohn Roosters, and Apr 5/7 vs. Dusseldorf
Karel Plasek – HC Kometa Brno (Czech)
Plasek has not seen his name on the scoreboard since Feb 26 against Bili Tygri Liberec and is now in a long 12-game pointless drought. After a four-game sweep at the hands of HC Ocelari Trinec, he won’t get a chance to break out of it until next season. He finished the 2020-21 season with six goals and 10 points in 44 regular-season games and zero points and a minus-5 in eight playoff games.
Linus Karlsson – BIK Karlskoga (HockeyAllsvenskan)
Like Podkolzin, Karlsson is also producing in the playoffs for his team BIK Karlskoga. During the qualification round, he already has two goals and four points in three games as his team holds a 2-1 series lead over Vasteras IK. Going back to the regular season, he is riding a five-game point streak where he has four goals and seven points in those games. He also has been held pointless in only three games in his past 20. If that’s not consistent, I don’t know what is.
Karlsson sure looks like the real deal so far, but we won’t know for sure until he starts playing in North America on the smaller ice. If Pettersson and Nils Hoglander are any indication, he should be fine, especially when it comes to the power play where it looks like he could be a perfect fit on the point alongside Quinn Hughes.
Next Games: Mar 29 vs. Vasteras (Game 4)
That does it for another edition of the Canucks prospects report. Stay tuned for more next week as we continue to bring you all the updates from here and overseas!
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, editor, part-time journalist, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.