2018-19 Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
Date of Birth: June 24, 2001
Place of Birth: Moscow, Russia
Ht: 6’1” Wt: 190 lbs.
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2019 first-year eligible
- THW (Mid-season Consensus Rankings): 3rd
- NHL Central Scouting: 2nd (Mid-term, European Skaters)
- ISS Hockey: 4th (March)
- Future Considerations: 3rd (Spring)
- McKeen’s Hockey: 3rd (Mid-Season)
- Bob McKenzie: 3rd (Mid-term)
- Sam Cosentino: 3rd (March)
Vasili Podkolzin is without a doubt one of the most polarizing prospects of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 17-year-old’s raw skill is clear as day — that’s not up for debate. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, complete difficult plays at high speed and he has a dangerous shot. His speed is good, but not great, however, due to an engine that doesn’t quit, his compete level and physicality are not up for debate either. These reasons — combined with his frame and how he excelled at international tournaments this season — are what make him an enticing top-five, or even a potential top-three selection this June.
Podkolzin tallied eight goals and 11 points in just five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer (the U-18s) while captaining Russia to a bronze medal finish. He also co-led the World Junior A Challenge in scoring in December with eight points in six games and helped his country win a silver medal. Most impressively, the winger surprisingly made the cut for Russia’s World Junior Championships squad, tallying three assists in seven games for a coach (Valeri Bragin) who usually shies away from using younger players at all.
There are two reasons some scouts are lower on Podkolzin: his underwhelming point totals with his club teams and a tendency to sometimes let his emotions get the best of him.
Over the course of the 2018-19 season, Podkolzin has played in three different leagues in Russia, none for more than 21 games.
He began in the highest junior league in Russia in September, the MHL, where he posted five goals and seven points in 10 games. He has since played two more games in the MHL (in January), bringing his total to eight points in 12 games, which is not very impressive for a potential top-five pick. Podkolzin also went pointless in three games in the KHL, playing once in November and twice in January, but received a grand total of 10:31 in the three games combined.
That’s why he has spent the majority of the season in Russia’s second-tier men’s league, the VHL, where he averaged 12:18 in 14 games in the regular season and most recently just 7:48 in seven playoff games. In those 21 combined games, Podkolzin has recorded three goals and three assists. While his lack of production can at least somewhat be attributed to playing on so many teams in such a brief time period, at the end of the day it doesn’t help his stock.
The second knock on Podkolzin is that he can get carried away at times when he is frustrated and tries to do too much. This can also lead to ill-advised penalties. Yes, he’s still very young, but when he tries to make it a one-man show and doesn’t use his teammates properly, it can lead to turnovers and goals against. With maturity and good coaching, this can certainly be easily fixed.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Vasili Podkolzin – NHL Draft Projection
Podkolzin is interesting because while most pundits have him as a surefire top-five pick, those who don’t have him closer to 10th (as opposed to seventh or eighth). There’s no question he is behind Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko, but he realistically could be taken anywhere from third to 12th because he has played in so many different leagues this season and his point totals don’t jump off the page. His skillset and raw tools should be too much for that many general managers to pass up on, so in all likelihood he goes somewhere in the four to eight range.
“Podkolzin checks all the intangible blocks, as he can be counted on to address a variety of his coach’s concerns. What separates him from all the other “toolsy” forwards is that he can either create or finish plays while traveling at maximum speed, and his strong balance and stickhandling seems to convince defenders to back off more than they should. Podkolzin is effective both in open ice and during trench warfare, and he’s capable of completing on-the-tape passes that lead directly to quality chances near the net..” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“An absolute pit bull. Podkolzin offers high-end offensive awareness, lightning quick hands and a confrontational style. Despite some muted point totals coming from his club team, he’s made a habit of showing up in a big way on the international stage. A potential high-end producer in the NHL. – Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
“Podkolzin is very skilled and can make the flashy plays to deke defenders, but he rarely does that off a standstill or along the walls. Instead, Podkolzin is typically full speed ahead to the net. He’s also a very good playmaker and finisher who can take advantage of space if defenders give it to him by making a pass or sniping from a distance. He’s a fine/good skater but hustles so hard that he looks like he’s always going fast. – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from ‘Pronman: 2019 NHL Draft midseason rankings’, The AthleticNHL – 1/29/19)
- Stickhandling/Puck Skills
- Compete Level
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Decision making
- Hockey smarts
Podkolzin projects as a top-six winger at the NHL level.
Risk – 2/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 9/10 Defence – 7.5/10
Podkolzin won a bronze medal with Russia at the 2019 World Junior Championships, where he recorded three assists in seven games and played nearly 14 minutes of ice-time per game. In December, he won a silver medal at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alberta. He captained Russia’s bronze medal winning team at last summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, (the U-18 international tournament), where he co-led the tournament with 11 points. In 2017, he also won a gold medal at the European Youth Olympic Festival, a biennial event for youth athletes from 50 countries run by the European Olympic Committees.
Nathan Kanter covers the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs for The Hockey Writers. He received his master’s in journalism from Western University in May of 2015 before serving as the first ever Digital Managing Editor at Western’s university newspaper, The Western Gazette, in 2015-16. From 2016-18, he served as the radio play-by-play voice of the Battlefords North Stars in the SJHL. His work has been published in The Hockey News, at Sportsnet.ca and at Dobber Prospects.