With top prospect Vasili Podkolzin currently impressing on the international stage as the captain of Team Russia, the Vancouver Canucks want to assure their fans that it is only a matter of time before he’s doing the same for them. Speaking with Jon Abbot of TSN 1040 in Vancouver, GM Jim Benning reveals that the club expects to sign Podkolzin during this season and plans to play him in the NHL lineup immediately. Benning reports that Podkolzin’s KHL contract expires on April 30, at which time the team will look to sign him and bring him overseas.
While late April is typically the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and not exactly an ideal time to introduce a teenage prospect to the NHL, the 2020-21 season is of course an exception. The playoffs do not begin until May 11 at the earliest this year, allowing Podkolzin nearly two weeks to settle in. Travel and quarantine could come into play, but the hope is that Podkolzin could see some regular season game action before the Canucks hopefully move on to the postseason.
The 2019 tenth overall pick also has the advantage of being very pro-ready. Podkolzin is already in his third season of seeing at least some KHL action, playing almost exclusively with SKA St. Petersburg so far this year. He also has pro size at 6’4″ and over 200 lbs., not to mention a developed offensive game. Once Podkolzin arrives in Vancouver, it may not take long for him to get up to speed.
Knowing they have Podkolzin in their back pocket for later this season, the Canucks may not feel the need to make any other roster additions this season, at least up front. If Podkolzin actually joins the team on April 30, that would be just over two weeks after the Trade Deadline on April 12. Vancouver may be hesitant to give up trade capital to add a forward with reinforcements on the way not long after. In fact, Benning stated that the team is “done for now” in terms of transactions (outside of a Travis Hamonic PTO becoming a contract), so Podkolzin may very well be the next notable addition that the team makes this season.