Draft prospect profile: Right wing Vasili Podkolzin


Each day leading up to the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, held on June 21 in Vancouver, we will be taking a look at one of the top prospects available for the Chicago Blackhawks with the No. 3 pick.

Second in the series of prospect profiles is right wing Vasili Podkolzin.

Vasili Podkolzin

Right wing

Shoots: Left


196 pounds

Date of birth: June 24, 2001

Place of birth: Moscow, Russia

Amateur team: HC Rhys Podolsk

NHL central scouting final ranking: 2nd, international skaters

NHL comparable: Vladimir Tarasenko


Perhaps no player disrupts current draft boards—with the possible exception of USNTDP right wing Cole Caufield—more than the obviously gifted, yet enigmatic Vasili Podkolzin, who could realistically be picked anywhere from third to thirteenth overall. However, the tape doesn’t lie. What you get with Podkolzin is a relentless two-way forward who can and will do all the little things and the big things necessary to help his team win: a fearless, versatile, natural leader who crushes most of the negative Russian hockey player stereotypes.

Offensively, Podkolzin combines power, über-slick hands, and crisp, tight edge work to create end-to-end scoring rushes—around and through all 5 opponents. In a single highlight (see video below), you’ll see him employ abrupt change of direction, a sick toe drag, wide speed and sheer drive to the net. He is both a power player and one who can effect plays “in space,” due to his hands and recognition.

A good, but not great skater, Podkolzin is fast enough. One criticism of Podkolzin’s skating is that he is bent forward in his stride—a trait that some believe creates vulnerability to big hits and concussions, though there’s scant evidence this has been an issue thus far in his career. But what he lacks in flat out speed, he more than makes up for in will to win and score. And unlike many Russians, Podkolzin seems to hunger for, and thrive in, the physical aspects of the game.


More Russian comparisons. You want a winger with a blistering and accurate one-timer from the circle, a la Artemi Panarin? Few (including current NHL players) are better than Podkolzin. Or perhaps a complete three-zone player who delivers everything you can ask of a forward: scoring, passing, defense, killing penalties, playing the power play and even winning an occasional faceoff—like, say, Tarasenko (or Slovak/Blackhawk legend Marian Hossa)? Podkolzin again.

Much has been made of the fact that Podkolzin is committed to his KHL organization for two more years, and that his point production in international play is at times inconsistent. Some have even gone as far as saying Podkolzin could be nothing more than a third liner in the NHL (when he arrives) due to his overall three-zone style of play.

However, reports out of the NHL draft combine suggest Podkolzin interviewed well (through an interpreter) and made no bones about the fact that he intends to play in the NHL in two years. And the fact is, as often as not, drafted players take 2-3 years to meaningfully play in the NHL. Hawk fans who reflexively point to Alex DeBrincat and Henri Jokiharju as proof to the contrary, forget that the NHL team they matriculated to was, ummm, not good at all with lousy depth. And ostensibly, Chicago plans to be a good team, perhaps as soon as this year.

So the choice becomes, do you trust the talent development process of Podkolzin’s KHL organization—versus that of a CHL team or NCAA program? Another question: do you believe his adaptation to the NHL would capitalize on his obvious array of offensive talents?

Valid concerns that may determine how high Podkolzin is selected and what kind of NHL player he becomes.

Implications for the Blackhawks

If Podkolzin becomes the force that some believe he will, there’s absolutely a place for him in the Blackhawks’ organization. Sure, you have Patrick Kane on one line at RW, but there’s no law that you can’t have a “young Tarasenko” on another. And you have to wonder if Blackhawk brass has not at least toyed with the notion of Podkolzin being the third piece of the longer term puzzle at RW, creating havoc and launching one-timers fed to him by Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat.

This is a time of year when “group-think” influences draft prognosticators and “mock GMs,” a phenomenon that has recently elevated the stock of some North American prospects, while downgrading Podkolzin. But while it’s possible Podkolzin could drop out of the top 10 due to issues touched on above, it’s perhaps just as likely some GM picking near the top of round 1 is going to find his explosive talent and will to win too intriguing to pass up.

What others are saying

I am going to go out on the line right now and say this kid is the best up and down winger in the class, and everyone should start praying their team doesn’t pass him by, because he is the real deal, from Russia with love.”

—Bill Placzek, draftsite.com



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