Colorado Avalanche: Vasili Podkolzin Brings Soft Hands and Tenacity

VANCOUVER , BC - JANUARY 5: Vasili Podkolzin #11 of Russia skates with the puck against Switzerland during a bronze medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championships at Rogers Arena on January 5, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER , BC - JANUARY 5: Vasili Podkolzin #11 of Russia skates with the puck against Switzerland during a bronze medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championships at Rogers Arena on January 5, 2019 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche have the #4 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. They might select a talented winger from Russia, Vasili Podkolzin.

The Colorado Avalanche have two first-round picks in the 2019 NHL Draft. One of them is the fourth-overall. As GM Joe Sakic has said, the first two rounds are set, so the draft begins with pick #3.

When Sakic and his entourage walk up to the podium, they’ll want to draft the best available player. However, since there’s no definitive order after the top-two, they may also draft for need.

As we saw last season, the Avalanche need some help with secondary scoring. Many fans would argue we also need a second-line center, but at bare minimum we need someone away from the top line who can produce regularly.

The Avs have shown themselves willing to take a flyer on Russian prospects in the last year, picking five in the last two seasons. However, they haven’t picked one in the first round since 1999 (Mikhail Kuleshov) — when our GM was still a player.

Well, if they do decide to draft a Russian in the first round, specifically with the fourth-overall, they may take a chance on Vasili Podkolzin.

Vasili Podkolzin

2018-19 Team: SKA St. Petersberg (MHL, VHL, & KHL)
Date of Birth: June 24, 2001 (17 years old)
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190 lbs.
Position: Right wing
Shoots: Left

Ranked #4 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #5 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #2 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (EU Skaters)
Ranked #3 by TSN/McKenzie

As you can see, Vasili Podkolzin is scouted between numbers three and five. He is right within the Colorado Avalanche’s #4 range.

To be honest, Podkolzin didn’t put up fantastic numbers last season. He played in three different Russian leagues and recorded just 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists) in 33 games. None of those points came while he was with the men’s league in the KHL.

Podkolzin has been more impressive on the international stage. Just this year, he played 34 games for Russia (from U18 to U20), recording 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists). At the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament, he recorded an impressive 11 points (8 goals, 3 assists) in 5 games.

Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst sees Podkolzin as “a rugged three-zone winger with an incredible compete level.” Kournianos continues:

"“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.”"

What’s more, Kournianos considers that Podkolzin is effective at both penalty killing and on the power play. He also admires the young winger’s one-timer accuracy.

Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects also likes what he sees in Podkolzin, calling him “an absolute pit bull.” Tenacity comes up a lot in the scouting reports, and Robinson adds:

"“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.”"

Vasili is known for not being the speediest skater, but Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey observes that the Russian has “a powerful stride” that “allows him to fight through checks and control the puck down low.”

As with other scouts, Kerr greatly admires Podkolzin’s skill with the puck. Every scout I read remarked on the prospect’s passing ability. However, Kerr sees the real beauty coming from Vasili’s shooting, calling him a sniper and adding:

"“A natural goal scorer, Podkolzin has a strong wrist shot with a lightning quick release.”"

All the scouts also admire Vasili Podkolzin’s defensive play, including his compete level, willingness to battle, and even his stick work.

Vasili Podkolzin in action:

Vasili Podkolzin and the Colorado Avalanche

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As scouts remark over and over, you can’t deny Vasili Podkolzin has skill and talent. What’s more, every scout remarks on his tenacity, and that’s important for success at the NHL level.

Two things give me pause about Vasili Podkolzin’s potential for the Colorado Avalanche. One is his skating. He’d definitely have to spend some time with skating coaches because he might struggle to keep up with a high-octane team like Colorado.

Indeed, I’m a little disappointed to not see that predatory smoothness I usually admire in Russian skaters. The predatory aspect is there, but the smoothness is lacking.

The second knock is his dedication to coming to North America. According to Elite Prospects, Podkolzin is signed with his Russian team for two more seasons. And the SKA St. Petersberg like to throw money at their players, according to Kerr.

That reluctance to come to North America is why teams often shy away from top Russian players. It would suck to waste your first-round pick, especially a high one, on a player who doesn’t come over for several years.

Well, Podkolzin was invited to the 2019 NHL Combine, and he presumably is attending. I imagine general managers will ask specifically about his intentions in that regard.

In any case, I went into this post thinking I’d want Vasili Podkolzin over other prospects. However, with the exception of Alex Turcotte (whom I bet the Avs pick), I prefer the other three prospects I’ve already posted about.

Anyway, here’s the full list of Colorado’s draft selections this year:

#4 (from Ottawa)
#62 (also from Ottawa)

I don’t think I’d be comfortable with Podkolzin at #4, but if he dropped to #16, I’d be fine with the Colorado Avalanche selecting him.

Looking at the 2019 NHL Combine. dark. Next

The 2019 NHL Draft takes place on June 21 – 22 in Vancouver, B.C. While the time for the first round hasn’t been announced, last year it was at 5:30 pm MT.