Based on his deployment so far this season, the Vancouver Canucks should consider sending Vasily Podkolzin down to the American Hockey League (AHL). The sophomore forward has struggled so far this season which has led to him being a healthy scratch multiple times already. A stint with the Abbotsford Canucks may be exactly what is needed for the young Russian to regain his confidence.
Podkolzin’s Season So Far
The 2022-23 season has been a tough one for Podkolzin. Despite being given opportunities on lines with Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and J.T. Miller, he has struggled to produce, only recording three points in 16 games. He has also struggled to generate shots on goal, as in his last 10 games, he has only recorded five. While he did start off the season hot with 13 shots in his first six games, his offensive game has seemingly disappeared of late, which is problematic for a Canucks team that has a hard time generating scoring chances at even strength.
As for his defensive game, it has taken a hit as well. He has a Corsi of 48.91% at even strength and has an expected goals percentage of 46.32%. The biggest problem, however, is his giveaway and takeaway numbers. Through 16 games this season, he has been credited with eight giveaways and three takeaways. Last season in 79 games, he recorded 18 giveaways compared to 32 takeaways. He has become a defensive liability lately, and when that is combined with no offensive production, it leads to being scratched like he was against the Colorado Avalanche.
Special teams have also been a sore spot for Podkolzin. He has played just over 30 seconds on the penalty kill this season and has seen zero seconds of power play time in his last nine games. In fact, he has only had more than 30 seconds of power play time three times in his first 16 games. At the NHL level, players need to earn special teams time but having less than five minutes of power play time so far this season is problematic. While he has yet to produce with the extra man, maybe some established time on the second unit is exactly what is needed for him to start finding his offensive game.
To Podkolzin’s credit, his slow start is not for a lack of trying. Whether it was standing up for himself against A.J. Greer of the Boston Bruins or his strong game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he threw four hits, had three shots, and an assist, it is clear he is trying his best to break out of his sophomore slump. That is one of the reasons his situation is frustrating to watch. Regardless, he needs to find a way to rediscover his game, and a trip to the AHL may be exactly the solution.
Benefits Of The AHL
While being sent down to the AHL is most likely not Podkolzin’s first choice, it could be the best move for his development. A good example is former Canucks draft pick Jared McCann. During his second NHL season, he was sent down to the AHL by the Florida Panthers after a tough start to the season. He played 42 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds in 2016-17, recording 11 goals and 25 points during that time. He was also able to round out his game away from the pressures of the NHL and has developed into a solid middle-six forward who potted 27 goals for the Seattle Kraken last season.
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If sent down, Podkolzin would have plenty of time to work on his game away from the constant pressures of the market. He would also get plenty of opportunities in the top six and the power play, as the Abbotsford Canucks have had issues scoring this season. They are ranked 27th in goals for and could use someone like him on their top line to help generate offence. The move would also allow him to learn from Yogi Svejkovsky, who helped develop players like Milan Lucic, Evander Kane, Brendan Gallagher, and Bowen Byram during their time in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Podkolzin Would Benefit From AHL Time
At this point, what Podkolzin needs is ice time and opportunities. In Abbotsford, he would most likely be on the team’s first power play unit, first line, and may even get time on the penalty kill. These are opportunities that aren’t available currently in Vancouver and most likely won’t be all season. A move to the AHL looks like the best option at this point and could be what’s best from a development standpoint for the young winger.
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Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.