Canucks Prospects Report: Training Camp Battles, Podkolzin & Costmar

The Vancouver Canucks have seen some impressive performances from both their prospects in this year’s World Junior Championship (WJC) taking place in the Edmonton bubble. In this special edition of the prospects report, we will take a look at how Vasili Podkolzin and Arvid Costmar are positively impacting their nation’s chances at a medal, and also dig into three key prospects that will be competing for jobs at training camp starting on Jan 3.

Podkolzin Leading the Way For Team Russia

After going pointless in his first two games of the WJC and creating a mass panic on Canucks Twitter in the process, Podkolzin woke up in a big way with four points this week. He had three points, including his first two goals of the tournament against Austria on Tuesday, then was a dominant force against the Swedes the next day, despite only putting up a single assist.

Related: Canucks Prospect Vasili Podkolzin Will Dominate the 2021 WJC

Podkolzin and his linemates, Rodion Amirov and Marat Khusnutdinov combined for 13 points in the two wins and were noticeable every time they were on the ice. Podkolzin played like an elite power forward in both games with several power moves to the net and showed everyone why he was a highly-touted first-round pick back in 2019 with an absolute snipe on his first goal.

Playing against a weaker opponent in Team Austria must have woken up the beast because Podkolzin has looked like a totally different player in the past two games. His strength, power, playmaking, and scoring touch were evident every shift, as his hard work was finally rewarded with some points on the scoreboard. Now he will turn his attention to the revitalized Team Germany and standouts Tim Stutzle and John-Jason Peterka as Russia continues their quest for gold in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 9 am PT.

Costmar & Team Sweden’s Tale of Two Games

You knew it was going to happen eventually after so many wins in a row, but Team Sweden’s luck finally ran out on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime loss to break their epic 54-game victory tour in round-robin play. The last time they had lost a game was back in 2006 when Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Jack Johnson scored in overtime to lead the Americans to a 3-2 win.

Costmar had a strong outing against the Russians with his second goal of the tournament and even engaged in a little physical battle with Podkolzin as he was matched against him for most of the night. He channeled his inner Alex Burrows, which seemed to get under the skin of the big Russian forward. He also had a few scoring chances and was a thorn in the side of his opponent once again.

Unfortunately for Costmar and Team Sweden, their first loss in forever seemed to break their spirit a bit. They are now on a two-game skid after falling 4-0 to the Americans on New Year’s Eve and instead of riding the momentum of yet another win, they are limping into the quarterfinals. On the bright side, Team Finland did not fare much better as they also turned in a stinker with a 4-1 loss to Team Canada on the same night.

The Finland-Sweden rivalry will be renewed on Saturday at 12:30 pm PT, as we will see one of hockey’s elite powers get eliminated from the WJC. They will both need to have much stronger efforts if they hope to continue their quest for supremacy at this year’s tournament because they did not look like themselves at any point in Friday’s games.

Canucks Prospects In Key Training Camp Battles

The Canucks released their training camp roster on Wednesday, which included several prospects who will be making an effort to either win a spot on the roster or the taxi squad. With the American Hockey League (AHL) gearing up to start their season on Feb 5, this will be their first chance to impress the coaching staff to earn some callups in the future.

Related: Canucks Roundtable: Projecting the 2020-21 Opening Night Roster

With all that said, here are three prospects you should keep an eye on as well as the full list of who will be attending training camp at Rogers Arena on Jan 3.

Nils Hoglander – Left-Wing

Ever since Nils Hoglander signed his entry-level contract in April, Canucks fans have been eagerly anticipating his arrival in Vancouver. He has been nothing short of amazing in the SHL with Rogle BK this season, so it’s obvious why. He’s fast, creative, and isn’t afraid to take chances offensively as evidenced by his many lacrosse moves and even one between-the-legs beauty he scored only a few weeks ago.

Nils Hoglander, Rogle BK.
Nils Hoglander has played his last game with Rogle BK (photo by Andreas Ljunggren)

Hoglander has a good chance of making the Canucks out of training camp, especially after forwards Tyler Toffoli and Josh Leivo signed with the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames respectively. There is a wide-open spot next to Adam Gaudette on the third line as well as a golden opportunity in the top-six alongside captain Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson. Heck, he may even see time with Elias Pettersson and JT Miller before training camp breaks on Jan 12. Suffice to say, he will be one of the main attractions throughout the festivities.

Jack Rathbone – Defence

Like Hoglander, Jack Rathbone will be one to watch in camp. He’s coming off a sophomore season that saw him post 7 goals and 31 points in 28 games for Harvard University in the NCAA and could be an NHL defenceman as soon as this season. His vision, mobility, and hockey IQ will be a welcome addition to the Canucks blueline, as they look to a future without veteran Chris Tanev.

Related: Canucks Ready To Gamble on Prospects To Complete the Blue Line

Rathbone will be battling the next rookie on this list for a bottom-pairing spot on defence. Even if he doesn’t make it, he will be a headliner on the Utica Comets in February and likely will be a callup option depending on where they play out of this season.

Olli Juolevi – Defence

Olli Juolevi had his first taste of NHL action in the playoffs last season and played a solid 6:16, including some penalty killing time. We all know his struggles with injuries, so it will be exciting to see what he has now that he is 100 percent healthy. He plays an unspectacular brand of defence, so he is probably the best suited to take over Tanev’s job on the penalty kill and by extension, a regular spot in the defence core.

Vancouver Canucks' Olli Juolevi
Olli Juolevi will be looking to earn a permanent spot on the Canucks defence core (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Juolevi will be worth the wait once he becomes a regular in the NHL. He has the smarts, skating, and playmaking abilities to make an impact for the Canucks in their transition game, and could be a pleasant surprise this season.

Full List of Prospects at Training Camp

  • LW Jonah Gadjovich
  • LW Nils Hoglander
  • RW Kole Lind
  • RW Will Lockwood
  • LW Marc Michaelis
  • D Guillaume Brisebois
  • D Jalen Chatfield
  • D Mitch Eliot
  • D Olli Juolevi
  • D Brogan Rafferty
  • D Jack Rathbone
  • D Ashton Sautner
  • D Josh Teves
  • D Jett Woo
  • G Michael DiPietro
  • G Jake Kielly

That does it for the special edition of the Canucks prospects report on the eve of quarterfinal Saturday at the 2021 WJC. Don’t look now, but we are only a little over a day away from training camp and less than two weeks from opening night against the Edmonton Oilers. All I have to say is, it’s about time!