The Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL) 2020-21 season is in full swing with plenty of National Hockey League prospects getting valuable ice time. We will look at three recent NHL draft picks who are off to fast starts. Plus, we will stay in Russia for our Prospect of the Day.
Canucks First-Rounder Showing Improvement
The Vancouver Canucks showed that their future is bright during their recent Stanley Cup playoff run. They put the hockey world on notice by eliminating the defending champion St. Louis Blues before taking the Vegas Golden Knights to limit in their seven-game Second Round series. They have another exciting young player who is getting his reps in at the KHL level and could be a key factor in their future success.
The Canucks used the 10th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to select right wing Vasili Podkolzin.
He played in all three levels of Russian hockey during the 2019-20 season. Eventually, he got to the KHL where he scored two goals and eight points in 30 games for SKA St. Petersburg.
Podkolzin has added some strength and size as the team’s website now has him listed at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, up two inches and 12 pounds from his draft year. He has a goal and an assist in his first six games while playing on the fourth line.
While Podkolzin hasn’t been racking up a ton of ice time, about 11 minutes per game, his shifts have been very noticeable.
He has been physical and fast on the ice. He was able to power his way through defenders before the added size and strength and now he is becoming a major force. Podkolzin has picked up a couple of roughing penalties early in the season as his aggressiveness has gotten the best of him at times. As the season progresses, fans in Vancouver should grow more excited about this top prospect.
Blue Jackets Prospect Showing Off Nifty Moves
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team that showed just how important organizational depth is. In a season after they lost such players like Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin, the Blue Jackets remained competitive and even won a series in the Qualifying Round of the postseason. Having a deep pipeline of prospects helps you stay afloat when your NHL roster is gutted by free agency.
Kirill Marchenko was taken by the Blue Jackets in the second round (49th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He made an impact in the KHL last season, playing with Podkolzin in St. Petersburg, by scoring seven goals and 16 points in 31 games. Now 20, the young left winger is still looking for this first point of the 2020-21 season after six games.
Although he hasn’t found the scoresheet yet, it isn’t from a lack of trying.
Marchenko has 11 shots on goal, which is tied for the sixth-most on the team, while average 11:26 of ice time per game. He has shown his creativity and used both his feet and hands to create space and generate scoring chances. As shown in the highlight above, he needs to improve on his finish and the points will start rolling in.
Blackhawks Need Another Building Block
The Chicago Blackhawks surprised a few folks by beating the Edmonton Oilers in the Qualifying Round last month. They eventually lost the Golden Knights in five games, but they hung tough with them. They showed that they have enough talent to play with anyone in the league, just not enough to get them over the hump.
The Blackhawks are hoping 2016 second-round (50th overall) draft pick, Artur Kayumov can be one of the players who eventually get them to the next level. The 22-year-old left wing has just started his fourth KHL season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
Kayumov is coming off a 2019-20 season which saw him set new career-highs with 16 goals and 25 points. He is being rewarded with a bigger role on the team this season. He is averaging 17:46 of ice time in his four games, which is the second-most among forwards on the team and up over two minutes from his average last season. He has been a part of the second power-play unit, where he scored his lone goal of the season so far.
Kayumov has played in four of Lokomotiv’s five games. He has a goal and an assist to go along with 12 shots on goal, which are tied for fourth on the team.
In watching some of his shifts, his game reminds me a bit of Dominik Kuablik as he has a knack of getting to the right places of the ice at the perfect moment. He will need to improve his play without the puck and his overall speed if he wants to make a serious run at an NHL roster in the future.
Prospect of the Day – Alexander Pashin
We will stay in Russia and look at another forward who will hear is name called at next month’s NHL Entry Draft. Pashin, 5-foot-8 and 154 pounds, is ranked 22nd, by NHL Central Scouting, among European skaters. In THW’s Josh Bell’s final draft rankings, he checks in at 42nd overall.
Related – 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Pashin used the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as his coming out party this past season. In five tournament games, he had seven goals and an assist leading Russia to the gold medal. He had two goals, including the game-winner, in the championship game versus Team Canada.
He played 37 games for Tolpar Ufa in the MHL last season, Russia’s top junior league. As a 17-year-old, he scored 17 goals and 39 points, which were the fourth-most on the team.
What he lacks in overall size, he makes up for with creativity and great offensive instincts. He uses his skating to get to open areas of the ice and once there, he shows off his very accurate shot.
Our own Peter Baracchini feels that if everything goes right, Pashin could be a top-end talent in the NHL.
If Pashin can be a consistent offensive threat, his ceiling could be extremely high. He has top-six forward, power-play specialist labeled all over him with the worst-case scenario being a third-line winger.
Pashin’s offensive ability alone is worthy of a first-round pick. However, his size and his play without the puck are concerns. He also plays a high-risk, high-reward style of hockey that has gotten him in trouble on the ice. He will likely be a long-term prospect, but the foundation is there and with the proper development, he could turn out to be an exciting player at the NHL level.