Kirill Kaprizov

A KHL Update With Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz

photo of Kirill Kaprizov, photo credit – Андрей Чудаев

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Aivis Kalniņš of HockeyBuzz. Kalniņš is a Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) columnist/insider and is a great follow for insight on players and prospects across the pond.

In my interview with Kalniņš, we touched on many topics including North American players adjusting to life in the KHL, Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild prospect), Vasili Podkolzin (Vancouver Canucks prospect), Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders prospect and more. 

Let’s check out what Kalniņš had to say.

The Interview

Josh: Many hockey fans in North America don’t really comprehend why the KHL is relatively low-scoring compared to the NHL. Can you talk about the style of play in the KHL and why the league is considered a low scoring one when you compare it to the NHL?

Aivis: It’s mainly because of the rink size. Puck gets overcarried a lot. Players try to make fancy plays. It’s just a whole different game over here which unfortunately affects goal scoring. However, the league is set to slowly switch to North American sized rinks as IIHF is working on doing the same across all European pro leagues. 

Josh: Ilya Sorokin is coming off of a great season with CSKA Moskva. What are the attributes of his game that you like the most and what do you believe that he still needs to work on?

Aivis: Ilya is a super athletic goalie and he knows how to use that. His reflexes are at an elite level, his movements are very steady, especially when moving side-to-side in the crease. He could work a little more on puck tracking. He’s often caught making those desperation saves just because he sometimes loses the puck. 

Josh: Nikita Gusev had an outstanding season with SKA St. Petersburg. He led the KHL in points. Do you believe that his offensive production will translate well to the NHL?

Aivis: I do believe that his production will translate well to the NHL. He’s one of not many players from KHL that can actually make the jump, adjust and make an impact. Gusev, Dadonov and Panarin have all been THE players that from the start to the end of their paths to the NHL have had me convinced that they are going to be big name players even in North America. You can look at Panarin – everyone loves him on and off the ice. Dadonov is also loved and is performing exceptionally well in a market like Florida so he’s a little underrated. Gusev has the same future ahead of him. 

Josh: Kirill Kaprizov of CSKA Moskva is looking like the best drafted prospect in Russia. The Minnesota Wild are patiently waiting for him to come to Minnesota. If you had to compare Kaprizov to an NHLer (current or former), which player would you compare him to and why?

Aivis: I don’t think Im going to say that he reminds me of player X or Y. He’s a goal scorer, he’s fast, he can play along the boards. He’s a very well rounded player. Can play in both ends of the ice. He hasn’t even played a single game in the NHL but I already read him as an 80+ point guy in the league and that says a lot about him. 

Josh: Miro Aaltonen had a great campaign with Vityaz Podolsk. In your opinion, does Miro look like he improved since his days with the Toronto Marlies or is he relatively the same?

Aivis: He has improved a little but I don’t think he will be able to improve to an extent which could lead him to the NHL just because his team choice was very poor. Yes, he is a part of the leadership group, he is playing big minutes, important situations – but it’s not working for him. More or less – he is the same player he was back then. ”Being a leader” in my book doesn’t count as a thing you should be developing. 

Josh: What are your overall thoughts on Vasili Podkolzin? 

Aivis: Canucks make the right choice. I had spoken to a few scouts and people in both KHL and NHL and heard that he was probably a top 3 prospect in the draft if it wasn’t for his KHL contract with SKA. NHL teams are scared because of the ”Russian” factor. Podkolzin is very similar to Alex Radulov but much faster. Very bright future for this kid. 

Josh: Who are some KHLers that NHL teams might try to bring to North America next year? Are there a few KHLers that fans in North America should pay special attention to?

Aivis: It’s hard to say at this point. The players that are worth bringing to North America usually pop up during the season. They tend to change on a monthly basis – so this really isn’t a question for the off-season. There is literally no buzz at this time of the year as the whole focus for everyone is either the current NHL free agency period or for the KHL it’s time to start packing and slowly getting to the training camps that mostly start at some point in July. 

Josh: We’ve seen a lot of Americans and Canadians come play for KHL teams. Does it seem that it’s relatively easy for these players to come to the KHL and get used to living across the world? Do the players begin to learn the local languages (i.e. Russian, Finnish, Latvian)?

Aivis: It depends on where you sign. I’ve heard so many stories from so many players. The European based teams (Riga, Helsinki, Minsk) are usually more pleasant for the so-called import players. There is not as much of a culture shock. You’re not thrown into bear fights or whatever. It’s never easy to move to the other side of the world. Often players don’t see their families for months because of how hard it is to travel. Some players don’t even want to bring their families along. Traveling in KHL from city to city is a nightmare – you can never get used to that. There are cities in Russia that players absolutely hate to even be in but sometimes they offer the best money. I think all the players try to learn local languages to an extent, especially all the simple phrases and things like ”Hello”, ”Goodbye”, ”How are you”.  There are some that love Europe and money so much that they change their hockey passports and move to these countries and even represent them in the IIHF competitions. 

Thank You Aivis

Thank you Aivis for taking the time to speak with me. Look forward to interviewing you again in the future.

featured image photo credit – Андрей Чудаев, Wikipedia Commons (License Info)

 

NHL Entry Draft: Top Russian Draft Eligible Prospects

Draft day is upon us and with that comes the final look on the European Leagues top prospects. This time it will be a look into the best of the prospects from Russia, with love.

The wait is over. Its draft day in Vancouver and its time for the prospects of the world to find out what the reward for all the long grueling hours of training will become. This includes a massive draft class from Russia. Just like the Swedes it was a very difficult task to narrow the pool down to four prospects. The fact that goalie prospect Ilya Konovalov had a .930 save procentage in 43 games in the KHL and didn’t make the list should be all the prove needed to showcase that.

Vasili Podkolzin – SKA-Neva St. Petersburg – Winger

Probably the most controversial prospects of  the first round, Podkolzin seems to have people mixed the most. Some are calling him a bust even before he has even been picked, while some see him as the best outside Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. At the start of May he looked destined to go third overall, but lately he has dropped in the ranking and now looks to go as low as 15th in the draft.

He played in SKA St Petersburgs different teams, with most of his time spend in the MHL and VHL. Here he had an okay year with 13 points in 26 games. For someone who is yet to turn 18, that’s far from bad. He even managed to get a taste of the KHL, although with limited minutes. While Podkolzin hasn’t fully light up the lamp at the club level, he has impressed mightily on the international scene. He was the captain of the under 18 team, where he almost led them to a gold medal, but Russia fell at the last hurdle and had to settle for silver. He also got a bronze medal at his first crack at the juniors. At 17 years of age even being a part of the Russian Junior team, speaks of his talents.

Podkolzins strengths are many and with blinding speed and hands, he can make some amazing plays at high speed he is lethal. Combine that with a great shot and vision and you got a near perfect goal scorer. On top of that he is a very nice size, and a lot of similarities can be made to Alexander Ovechkin in the way he plays the game. His compete level is fantastic and like he showed with the under 18 national team, he is a fine leader. The reason he has dropped seems to be the Russian factor, where he is bound to a contract with SKA St Petersburg for the next 2 seasons. Some teams will struggle to wait that long to see him in action. However, as we seen with Artemi Panarin, the team that can wait, might get a fantastic star at the end of it all.

Pavel Dorofeyev – Metallurg Magnitogorsk – Winger

A beast in the Russian junior leagues, where Pavel Dorofeyev showed that he was far too good. He played 19 games and had 31 points. That’s numbers that more than warranted the call up to the KHL that he got, although it was with more limited ice time at Matallurg. Here he has had 2 points, which isn’t great, but he has played 23 games. That’s not easy to do in Europe’s strongest league at the age of 18. A league that has players who could more than hang in the NHL, and while he wasn’t scoring for fun, he stayed on the team and even getting to play 4 playoff games.

A strong offensive player, who is very similar to Podkolzin in a lot of ways, only a year older. A nice shot, fine speed and a super vision, makes him an exciting player to watch. He possesses good work rates on the defensive areas and is having more than enough talents to produce at a great level in the NHL. But like Podkolzin the thing that hurts his draft stock is his contract situation. Once again, it’s very likely that he won’t come to North America directly, and it will always be a risk that he signs a contract in Russia, that locks him for a little while in the KHL. Some teams wont risk that with their first rounder and therefor he could drop, and if so he could be a great steal to keep an eye on.

Yegor Spiridonov – Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk – Center

The center of Pavel Dorofeyev in the MHL, but unlike his line mate, he stayed the entire year in the MHL, despite dominating it. 41 points in 43 games tells the story of a great season for Spiridonov, who also was a key part of the Russian team that made it all the way to the finals, in the under 18 world championship. Here he had six points in the seven games.

The strengths of Spiridonov is his two way ability. Similar to a player like Mikko Koivu, his defensive awareness and discipline when it comes to the defensive duties is second to no. If a shot needs to be blocked he will do it, and with great physicality his a able to win a lot of the battles at the boards. He is a coach’s best friend in a lot of ways. However, as good as the defensive abilities of Spiridonov is, the offense is lacking behind. Although he keeps the puck well as he enters the zone, his skating his not great. Its something that needs a lot of work from the team that picks him. But with his work rates and pride as he plays, im confident that he is more than capable of being a fine NHL player, that might even be able in the mid rounds.

Pyotr Kochetkov – SKA-Neva St. Petersburg – Goalie

An absolute brick wall at the world juniors where he was deservingly so named the best goalie of the tournmant, has risen his stock a lot. Follow that up with some fine domestic performances and the 19-year-old, might finally get drafted. While most of the season was in VHL he was putting up fantastic numbers for St Petersburgs VHL team. 18 games and a .930 and .955 in the playoff is worth taking note of.

Twice he has been passed but I can’t see the same happen in Vancouver as he is a well sized goalie at 6’3 who is able to cover the net well and with his great agility and quickness he is absolutely one of the better goalies in the draft. Where he needs to work on his game is his aggressiveness that can see him overcommit and leave too much net open on a rebound. However, that is something that corrected with the right training and I could see him become a starter in the future.

NHL Mock Draft Part 3: Picks 11-15

Part three of the Mock Draft has finally arrived! I have had plenty of time since part two to re-evaluate my original selections.

Since part two came out I have graduated, and finished up high school, and so my next chapter begins, as does the next chapter of my mock draft. So, with that being said, who do I have being selected at picks 11-15? Let’s find out.

 

11th Overall Pick: Philadelphia Flyers select Peyton Krebs, Center, Kootenay Ice, WHL

Krebs played for a not-so-good Kootenay Ice team, but despite all that, still shined. He managed to put up 19 goals and 49 assists (68 points) in 64 games, with low-end talent around him on the wings. When he played internationally for team Canada at the U18 World Junior Championships, he scored 6 goals along with 4 assists for 10 points, in 7 games. Krebs is known to be one of the hardest working players in the entire draft, if not the hardest working player. Fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari even said Krebs, “Is like a dog on a bone when the puck isn’t on his stick.” Krebs is also praised for his skating ability, where he has high end speed, and fantastic acceleration, reaching his top speed quickly. What really makes his skating jump out, is his outstanding edge work. He’s able to take tight turns, and Tony Ferrari compared his quick cuts to an NFL Wide Receiver. Standing at 5’11, and 181 pounds, he could add some more muscle to better fit in with NHL players, so he does not fit the bill of what many fans consider a Flyer (Broad Street Bullies, anyone?). However, they have recently drafted Travis Konecny (5’10, 174), Shayne Ghostisbehere (5’11, 180), and Joel Farabee (6’0, 161). So, why not keep going with smaller, shiftier and more finesse guys? That’s where the game is evolving, and the Flyers should shift their attention to that. Not only that, his energy and want for the puck to be his, adds to his aggressiveness, and despite not being able to outmuscle guys, he gives them no breathing room. Now, his over-eagerness does cause him to get out of position, but that’s coachable, and his energy is tangible. He would be a huge asset for the Flyers.

Now, there have been rumors surrounding the 11th overall pick, and Philadelphia can go out and acquire a top tier defenseman. They could go out and inquire on Erik Karlsson, opening up a window to sign him on before he hits the open market, similar to the deal with Kevin Hayes. They could send this pick, along with other assets to Nashville for PK Subban. Or, they could acquire Jacob Trouba’s rights from the Winnipeg Jets. All those options are on the table, or, of course, they can hang on and select high-end prospect Peyton Krebs.

Future Role: For the top ten prospects, I looked at next seasons role, but from here on out, there will be no players in the NHL. So, for future role, Krebs has high potential and could easily slot in as the number one center for the Flyers, over former second overall pick, Nolan Patrick.

Update: Multiple reports have indicated that Krebs has torn an Achilles Tendon during an offseason workout.

12th Overall Pick: Minnesota Wild select Cam York, Left-Handed Defenseman, USNTDP

Cam York is the top USNTDP defenseman in this draft, and it shows in his game. He recorded 14 goals and 51 assists (65 points) in 63 games with the U18 teams, and as a defenseman, that’s super impressive. At the U18 World Junior Championships, he put up 4 goals and 7 assists (11 points)in 7 games for team USA, showing he can shine on the international stage as well. You’re probably thinking he is just offensive, but is he really? No, he is not. He has great skating ability, a good stick, and strong positioning, which allows him to close the gap, throw a poke check, and dart down the ice. If he fails, his skating allows him to get back into position, and his positioning takes away any chances the opposition might have. He needs to get stronger (5’11, 174 pounds), but that comes with just about every prospectt, especially defenders. Cam York is a near complete prospect, and could turn out to be a fantastic selection. He is committed to the University of Michigan for next season.

Future Role: He has the ability to quarterback a power play in the future, and if everything goes right, can move into a top pair. However, he projects as more of a second pair guy, who plays well in all three zones. Could take 3 years before he is able to make the jump to the NHL.

13th Overall Pick: Florida Panthers select Arthur Kaliyev, Left Wing, Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL

The Florida Panthers are getting a mid-round steal with Kaliyev, I’m telling you now. He put up 51 goals and 51 assists (102 points) in 67 games, which is un-real. How he isn’t ranked higher by experts is beyond me. But here we are at 13, and there’s no way they pass up Kaliyev. His skating is not the best, but he has gotten better, and that’s a positive for coaches who can get their hands on Kaliyev at the draft. He’s tough to knock off his skates, but struggles battling along the boards. But what makes him such an astonishing prospect is his shooting ability. Like Caufield, he is a sniper, and burying over 50 goals with Hamilton, he backs that up. But where Caufield is purely a sniper, Kaliyev can utilize his stick handling ability and effectiveness in the cycle to open up teammates, and he can thread the needle. His passing can be just as accurate as his shooting, and his vision is great. When you have a guy as offensively skilled as Kaliyev currently is, why not select him? Because he is not good defensively. He shows no effort, and he is not good positionally. Kaliyev does not like to battle along the boards. He is strictly all offense, and that is not exactly a good thing. Development will be key, and for Florida, they’ve developed Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau, as well as kickstarting Reilly Smith’s career and saving Frank Vatrano’s. They have the tools, and they’re willing to take a risk on an immensely skilled winger in Kaliyev. But remember, there’s a similarly high-skilled, offensively oriented winger, who is not great in the defensive zone. Now, he isn’t a well known player, but maybe you’ve heard the name Alex Ovechkin?

Future Role: If development goes right, he can easily be an elite winger for the Panthers, centered by Barkov. He would realistically need about 3 years to make the jump, so it will be a while before he makes an impact, but it could be well worth the wait. Or, he could be a bust, with a lack of effort outside of the offensive zone, and be a journeyman, looking for a fit all around the league.

14th Overall Pick: Arizona Coyotes select Vasili Podkolzin, Winger, SKA St. Petersburg, KHL

I’m just going to say it, Podkolzin is my least favorite prospect. That being said, I’m strictly going off of what Tony Ferrari said in his deep dive on Podkolzin, but in a shortened evaluation. He feeds off of board battles on offense, “bullying” his opponents there. He is hard to get out from in front of the opposing goalie. Podkolzin is a tough competitor, working harder than almost every prospect (with Krebs as the exception there). He is thought of as a boom or bust prospect, similar to Kaliyev, but in a different way. Where Kaliyev’s one major weakness is the catalyst for his potential bust status, Podkolzin has only found success internationally with his age group, where as he could not produce effectively against men in Russia. A very powerful skater, Podkolzin recorded 8 goals and 5 assists (13 points) in 29 games combined in Russia, playing in the KHL, MHL and VHL. It’s important to note that he recorded 0 points in 3 KHL games. As the captain for team Russia in the U18 World Junior Championships, he recorded 1 goal and 3 assists (4 points) in 7 games. In the U20 WJC, he posted just 3 assists in 7 games. Ferrari does note that his lack of club team production could be because of his constant moving through the 3 major leagues in Russia, and his inability to find chemistry and stability on a team. Next season, however, will be telling of how good he truly is, as he should stick in the KHL for most of, if not all, of next season.

Future Role: Has a good skill level, arguably top 5. But his being in Russia, makes contracts more difficult to figure out, as his rights belong strictly to his KHL club. If he does make the jump, he could wind up being a top 6 power forward, similar to Mark Stone, or as Last Word On Hockey’s Ben Kerr says, Rick Nash.

15th Overall Pick: Montreal Canadiens select Philip Broberg, Left-Handed Defenseman, AIK, Allsvenskan

Broberg plays in the second tier Swedish league (Allsvenskan) instead of the top league (SHL). He’s a big kid, standing at 6’3, 203 pounds, and that’s something that the Habs would love to have. Considering they have Shea Weber (6’4, 230), and Jordie Benn (6’1, 204), they seemingly love bigger blue liners. Broberg put up 2 goals and 7 assists (9 points) in 41 games played with AIK, and added another 2 goals and 4 assists (6 points) in 7 games with Sweden in the U18 WJC. In the U20 WJC, he had 1 assist in 4 games. He was up and down with production, not piling up points in Allsvenskan or the U20’s, but nearly was point per game in the U18’s. This is mainly due to his outstanding speed, and for a guy as big as he is, it’s very impressive. His shooting isn’t great, but he has very good passing skills. He is an inconsistent scorer, but his skating opens up a world of opportunities, and his frame makes it hard for players to knock him off the puck. Defensively, he possesses an outstanding IQ, knowing where to be, and when to be there. He is positionally sound and, again, his skating helps him a ton. His transition game is fueled by his speed and passing abilities, making him the safest pick in the entire draft. He is slated to play in the SHL with Skelleftea AIK.

Future Role: He has a high ceiling, although he may not reach an elite level, but certainly a top pair defenseman, playing both penalty kill and powerplay.

All stats via eliteprospects

Evaluations inspired by Tony Ferrari and LastWordOnSports

NHL Draft Profile: Vasili Podkolzin

A bull in a china shop, Podkolzin is a physical presence at both ends of the ice. Offensively, he is a battler who works the boards better than any of the top prospects in the draft. He uses his physically mature frame to bully defenders to get to the front of the net with a variety of power moves. Defensively, he throws his body around without worry. His compete level is top-notch, relentless in all three zones.

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Name: Vasili Podkolzin

Date of Birth: June 24, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Russia (Moskva, Russia)

Hieght: 6’1″

Weight: 190lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: RW

Rankings

Ranked #3 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Podkolzin doesn’t rate highly among his peers anywhere but does keep pace in shot generation. This could be an affect of his constant changing of teams or it could be cause for concern making Podkolzin a sizeable risk.

The best word to describe Podkolzin would be “Powerful”. The high-motor Russian is easily one of the most competitive players in this draft class. He is a powerful skater with good edges and great balance. He uses his edges to drive the net with consistency and routinely wins battles in front of the net. Rarely out-worked, Podkolzin does an excellent job getting a quick first step creating instant acceleration. While his top speed isn’t elite, it is above average and he reaches it so fast that he’s often ahead in a race to the loose puck. He changes direction and handles the puck in tight on defenders with ease to create space for himself. In the video below, Podkolzin shows off excellent acceleration to transition the puck through the zone and then gets an unbelievable assist, recognizing he had support on the net drive. 

Not a particularly big player at just 6’1″ and 190lbs, Podkolzin is strong and physically able to battle opponents that are bigger than him. While he doesn’t win every battle against more physically mature players, he is able to work hard to prevent losing position at the very least. He competes along the boards like a lion attacking a gazelle, winning puck battles in corners seemingly because he wants the puck more. Taking a shift off against Podkolzin isn’t an option because his motor never stops. As he develops more physically, he will be able to continue doing the same thing to players at the NHL level.

In the offensive zone, Podkolzin is a man of many talents. He is a scorer that does it in a variety of ways. He is able to score off the rush with a good release and hard and heavy wrist and snap shot. He excels in the cycle game and opens up in the circles where he is able to find open space to receive a one-timer. His slap shot is heavy and works well because of his explosive torque created in his core. He features one of the best shots in the draft. In tight, he is able to elevate the puck and make moves in close to create a better angle or find the open space in the net. His playmaking ability is fairly underrated. He is able to make passes and find teammates on a regular basis and does so enough to keep defences honest. He works off the boards and makes crisp passes from the corners. He doesn’t hesitate to send the puck back towards the point and allow his defensemen to stay involved in the offensive cycle game.

His defensive zone coverage is good for a winger, as he closes down the boards and relentlessly fights for 50/50 pucks. He doesn’t shy away from physical play, willingly engaging to separate the puck carrier from the puck. He is deceptive when lifting the stick and taking the puck away, going unnoticed until it’s too late. In the video above, Podkolzin shows off his penalty killing against the stacked US team at the World U18s. After recovering possession, he does an excellent job getting on his horse, skating through players who are caught flat footed and turning opposing blue-liners inside-out through the neutral zone. Excelling at controlling the puck through the the middle of the ice. Containing the Russian power forward is difficult to do once his legs start pumping.

Preseason Outlook

Podkolzin has built up a reputation as a performer on the international stage for Russia. He had four points in four games at the World U18 last year, as well as 12 points in 13 games at the U17s. His club play has always been good yet unspectacular on the stats sheet. He had 30 points in 21 games for his club team last year in the Russian U17 league. Looking to begin his year on a high note, he captained the Russian team at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in August of 2018.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospects Center Youtube page

Coming into the season as a highly touted prospect, Podkolzin blew expectations out of the water. As arguably the most dominant player at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the preaseson, the draft community began to speak of Podkolzin as a truly elite talent that is a top-three talent in this draft class. Finishing tied for first in tournament scoring with 2020 Draft eligible Alexis Lafrenière of team Canada, Podkolzin showed what he can do. A hat-trick against the Americans to capture the bronze is a competitive game set the scouting world on fire. He dominated physically from the start of the tournament until the final buzzer.

Up-and-Down from MHL, VHL and KHL

Starting the season in the MHL (Russian Junior League) and playing nine games producing eight points in those mince games for his most productive stretch of the season for any of his club teams. During this stretch he was able to display his full skillset scoring goals off the rush, in tight on the net and off the cycle. Podkolzin was able to out muscle players in this age group, often looking like a man amongst boys physically. His shooting talent was evident as he had five goal in that stretch to begin the season.

Upon being moved to the VHL (Second tier Russian league), Podkolzin scored in his second game but then failed to put anything on the board in his final five games of this VHL stint. After a brief single game call up to the KHL with no results, he returned to the VHL for a pair of games with a point. This short stint was followed by a couple cameos with the national team, including a decent World Junior tournament.

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Shortly after the World Juniors, a second stint in the KHL came with the big club. Although the tenacious forward didn’t record a point, he displayed some of his puck skills and skating ability. He was able to compete physically without an issue and he showed consistent effort. His never-ending motor allowed him to make an impact in other areas of the game, playing a good 200-foot game in the top men’s league outside of the NHL. He didn’t seem behind the play or struggling with pace in any way at the KHL level.

After up-and-down transitions from the MHL and VHL the rest of the season, the Russian power-sniper was good in both the VHL and MHL playoffs. In eight VHL games, Podkolzin produced three points in their brief run. Playing at a point-per-game pace in the abbreviated three game playoff stint in the MHL, Podkolzin was effective in both leagues playoff series, yet unspectacular. His club team season was riddled with inconsistent play and inconsistent team assignment.

Success with Russian National Team

Known as an international team, big moment producer, Podkolzin lived up to the hype more times than not. In the Hlinka-Gretzky and the World Junior-A Championships, Podkolzin absolutely dominated. In 11 combined games, he produced 19 points, with eight goals in the five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky alone. The final time that Podkolzin represented Russia at the U18 level was at the recent World U18s. This is the only tournament that he faced criticism in internationally. Asked to play a more defensive role, he displayed his 200-foot game and flashed offensively but struggled to gain a footing in the offensive zone. With just four points in seven games, Podkolzin and the Russian team fought to get to the gold medal game, only to fall to the Swedish entrant of the tournament.

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At the U20 level, Podkolzin played lower on the depth chart and played quite well in games with players two years his senior. The World Junior Championships over the New Year showed how much Podkolzin had committed to the defensive end of the ice. With just three points in seven games, his offensive contributions were not needed as the Russian team worked their way to a bronze medal in a year where they weren’t expected to compete. In total, Podkolzin played 34 games with various Russian national teams at a variety of levels. In those games he produced at a solid rate, with 46 points, good for 1.35 points-per-game. Overall, Podkolzin showed both offensive skills and defensive prowess on the international stage, keeping his reputation as a big moment performer.

What the Detractors Say

The knocks on Podkolzin have a lot to do with his lacking club team production this season. With inconsistencies as to where Podkolzin was playing at a given time have a lot to do with the mediocre counting stats. Unfortunately, the largest sample size we have for the the young Russian on a club team is the 14 games he played in the VHL, the second tier league under the KHL. His five points in those 14 games weren’t overwhelming in a positive or negative way. He showed his skills at the KHL level in a brief three game stint with SKA St. Petersburg. He also played at the MHL level in the SKA system. In the 12 games in the Russian junior hockey league, he accumulated eight points, six of which were goals. For all of the criticism that Podkolzin takes for his club stats, it’s often not taken into consideration that he barely played in one spot with any regularity.

Vasili Podkolzin will be taken…

Anywhere from three to twelve, maybe even later. The stock of Podkolzin has fallen for some over the latter half of the hockey calendar. His mediocre performance at the World U18s seemed to be the real drop off for most evaluators. The powerful Russian winger has been one of the most divisive prospects in this draft class, certainly the hardest to gauge in the top half of the draft. He has the tools to be a power forward at the NHL level and when he has flashed the net drive, skating, hard shot and good vision, he looks like an unstoppable force.

Having played for seemingly every team possible, he wasn’t able to get a footing anywhere he played. It’s been disappoint that he has been moved around so much and also played in all the international tournaments he could. Should a team fall in love with the toolsy forward, he could be a top-five selection. However, if teams deem his lack of total production and the fact that he will likely come over in two years, he could be a massive faller in the draft.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite Prospects, Dobber Prospects and NHL.com

Puck 77 NHL Draft Rankings

The final rankings are here from the Puck77 team! There’s been some major changes, players who have risen and a few who’ve dropped. Hughes and Kakko lead the pack but this draft is filled with talent deep into the first round! 

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This week we will be releasing some Prospect Deep Dives for the top 12 prospects in the draft, all of which will be linked with the player below once they go live! Starting on June 2nd, we will release two profiles a day over the next week with a ton more draft content to come as well! Without further ado, here is what the team came up with!

1. 🇺🇸 Jack Hughes, C, USNTDP: Hughes is able to think the game at high speeds. His speed, shot, vision, hockey IQ, and speed are all tremendous. He is that player that puts you on the edge of your seat. Despite a lacklustre men’s IIHF World Championships where he only put up just three assists in seven games. Even though Kakko had the better World Championships, Hughes remains the player with the highest upside and best overall skill set.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Jack Hughes

2. 🇫🇮 Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (Liiga): The Finnish stud is the most NHL ready player and should step into stardom immediately. With the finishing ability to make his outstanding playmaking ability a secondary weapon, Kakko is the complete package and far from a consolation prize with the second pick in the draft. Kakko joined team Finland at the IIHF Men’s World Hockey Championships and played very well, collecting six goals and an assist in 10 games.

Deep Dive Scouting Report of Kaapo Kakko

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3. 🇺🇸 Alex Turcotte, C, USNTDP: Alex Turcotte is an amazing offensive talent. He plays a strong 200-foot game and is an amazing passer. The one problem with Turcotte was his injury earlier this season. He might have the highest upside of any forward in this draft not named Jack Hughes.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Turcotte

4. 🇨🇦 Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL): The clear top blue-liner in this draft, he is a smooth skater and transitional dynamo. Excellent edge work in the defensive zone and a smart stick. He’s smart enough to know when to pinch and when to stay but has the ability to recover when a rare mistake is made. Top pair potential with all situation talent.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Bowen Byram

5. 🇺🇸 Trevor Zegras, C/LW, USNTDP: Zegras arguably has the best vision in this year’s draft class, and he also has a pretty high ceiling. He makes it look effortless when he is stick handling through traffic. A premier playmaker who does an excellent job distributing the puck.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Trevor Zegras

6. 🇨🇦 Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Dylan Cozens, like Kakko has good size. He also has a great shot and jaw-dropping speed. He plays an excellent two-way game as well. He may not put up a bunch of points at the next level, but he will be a competent scorer.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Dylan Cozens

7. 🇺🇸 Cole Caufield, LW, USNTDP: If you want goals, you’ve found you man. He may be small (5’6″, 162lbs) but the natural goal scoring ability can’t be overlooked. He’s worked himself into the end of the second tier of players (ranked 3-11) who could go at any draft position in the top 11. If a team is willing to overlook his diminutive stature, the U18 World Championship MVP could be a 30-goal scorer early in his career.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Cole Caufield

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8. 🇨🇦 Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (WHL): 6’4″ and 200 lbs at 17 years old. Those gifts alone make him an attractive prospect, but when you add his vision and playmaking ability and you have a guy that jumps to #1 on any prospect pool. His hands are also pretty underrated. Though his inconsistency and skating are a few problems, those are things that he can fix in the next few years.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Kirby Dach

9. 🇨🇦 Alex Newhook, C, Vancouver Grizzlies (BCHL): Playing in the BCHL he has torn the league to shreds. After a slow start his season has exploded over the last half of the season. His U18 World Championship performance solidified his standing high in the first round and proved that he could produce against top competition in his age group.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Alex Newhook

10. 🇨🇦 Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice (WHL): The now Winnipeg Ice were one of the worst teams in the WHL this year, but Krebs was that lone standout player for them. He lead their team in points this season. A pass-first playmaker, Krebs can make plays even with the smallest amount of space available.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Peyton Krebs

11. 🇺🇸 Matthew Boldy, RW, USNTDP: It’s pretty rare for his age, but Boldy plays basically mistake-free. He may not drive the offense for his team, but without the puck his play is fantastic. Depending on the role he is in, he can play as either a sniper or a playmaker.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Matthew Boldy

12. 🇷🇺 Vasili Podkolzin, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Podkolzin’s skillset is easily Top-5. But there are other risks with him that teams have to be aware of. Internationally he is usually pretty good but his league numbers are a bit underwhelming. Also, his disinterest in coming over to North America as well as his contract situation in Russia might make some teams skeptical of drafting him.

Deep Dive Scouting Report on Vasili Podkolzin

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13. 🇸🇪 Victor Söderström, RHD, Brynäs IF (SHL): Victor Söderström is a very mobile two-way defenseman. He plays extremely well in all zones, is physical and makes great passes. Söderström needs to work on his play in the offensive zone.

14. 🇺🇸 Cam York, LHD, USNTDP: York has played top minutes for the US U-18 team and is very reliable playing heavy minutes. He is also a very good power play QB. York is another very reliable, two-way defenseman who is very effective in transition. He has confidence with the puck on the rush and is also a very good skater.

15. 🇺🇸 Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL): Brink is one of the most underrated forwards in this year’s draft class. He is known to be a goal scorer and he tore up the USHL this year, scoring at nearly a goal-per-game rate. He was on a line with Martin Pospisil and Marcus Kallionkieli towards the last month or so of the season, and that became one of the best lines in the USHL.

16. 🇺🇸 Arthur Kaliyev, LW, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL): Kaliyev drove Hamilton’s offense once Brandon Saigeon was traded. He is another fantastic goal scorer. He is a shooting threat from just about anywhere in the offensive zone, plus he is a pretty underrated playmaker. Kaliyev was fourth in goal scoring in the OHL’s regular season, totaling 51 goals. Not too bad, eh?

17. 🇩🇪 Moritz Seider, RHD, Alder Mannheim (DEL): The German defender playing in the top league of his home country, Seider could be a steal for a team drafting in the early 20s. A 6’4″, mobile defender who is a right shot could have scouts, coaches and management salivating at the chance of drafting him.

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18. 🇫🇮 Ville Heinola, LHD, Lukko (Liiga): Heinola is a great two-way defenseman. He was paired with Henri Jokiharju at the World Juniors this year and they both played fantastic. He totaled 14 points in 34 games this year which is not too bad for an 18-year-old in a men’s league.

19. 🇨🇦/🇺🇸 Thomas Harley, LHD, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Thomas Harley is a big-bodied defenseman who has excellent mobility and skating. He has great vision, good passing and is defensively responsible. Harley needs to work on not turning over the puck and his shot.

20. 🇨🇦 Raphaël Lavoie, C/RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Lavoie’s style of play relies heavily on power. He could use his size more effectively at times, if he does he might become one of those power forwards that fans love. He may lack high-end offensive upside but he’s a very safe pick.

21. 🇨🇦 Ryan Suzuki, C/W, Barrie Colts (OHL): Offensively, Suzuki’s playmaking is up there with the best in the draft. A high motor player who doesn’t get outworked often. Has a better back-hand pass than most have forehand passes. His defensive game lacks consistency in results but not effort.

22. 🇨🇦 Phillip Tomasino, C, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL): Philip Tomasino is an excellent skater. He uses his speed on both offense and defense. He also has a good shot and has great vision, which allows for him to make great passes. He is a very high energy player, never giving up on plays. He needs to work on getting better in the defensive end.

23. 🇸🇪 Philip Broberg, LHD, AIK (Allsvenskan): High end speed and skill, Broberg is essentially a fourth forward when his team is in the offensive zone. Uses his skating on the defensive side of the puck but doesn’t consistently drive defensive results. Received U18 tournament all-star status on the back of leading Sweden to gold.

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24. 🇸🇪 Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle BK (SHL): Nils Höglander is a speedy winger. He has great speed, great passing and a good shot. He is a feisty player and is good in all three zones. He could stand to ubulk up and work on his discipline.

25. 🇷🇺 Pavel Dorofeyev, LW/RW, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL): Dorofeyev dominated the MHL this season, already having a strong season the previous year as well. He can play the role of a playmaker and sniper as he is capable of setting up his linemates and finishing passes.

26. 🇨🇦 Jakob Pelletier, LW, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL): Pelletier has very quick hands and good acceleration. He is also a great playmaker that sees the ice very well. He is definitely one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft class.

27. 🇺🇸 Spencer Knight, G, USNTDP: The clear cut top goaltender in this draft. Positionally sound and calm in net. Doesn’t resort to swimming around when out of position. An athletic goalie who looks to be a high end NHL goalie.

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28. 🇫🇮 Patrik Puistola, LW, Tappara (Liiga): If Puistola is not drafted in the first round, he would be a fantastic pick in the second. He is primarily known as a goal-scorer who has a heavy release around the slot. He does have great vision as well. He’s a shifty player who uses great edge work and agility to maneuver around the ice.

29. 🇨🇦 Matthew Robertson, LHD, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): He could be the safest defender in the draft. Robertson is basically the definition of an all-around defenseman. He is a very effective two-way defender that has been relied upon all year by Edmonton to play in all situations.

30. 🇷🇺 Ilya Nikolayev, C, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL): A good 200-foot player who competes every shift. Plays in all situations and has good vision. Reliable, near pro ready player. Excellent in the face-off circle and responsible in all three zones.

31. 🇸🇪 Tobias Björnfot, LHD, Djurgårdens IF J20 (SuperElit): Björnfot is another one of those players that could easily go in the first-round, though he is projected to go early on in the second. The Top-4 upside is definitely there. He is a two-way, puck-moving defender that is very mobile. He can be relied upon in offensive situations as well. 

Thanks for joining us for the rankings from the team here at Puck77! Be sure to check out the Prospect Deep Dives linked to the top-12 prospects as soon as they come out over the next week!

All stats and information courtesy of eliteprospects.com