As the calendar flips to June, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in a very familiar situation.
The 2019 NHL draft is set to go in Vancouver on June 21st and 22nd and the Oilers are in possession of the 8th overall pick.
If you’re like me, you probably already know a few of the names that are being thrown around as potential Oiler picks. Kirby Dach, Cole Caufield, Peyton Krebs, and recently Philip Broberg are all prominent names that could be on the board at pick #8. None of those players will be the focus in today’s article. Instead we are going to take a look at a different player that has been held in high esteem until recently. Vasili Podkolzin
Who Is Vasili Podkolzin?
Vasili Podkolzin has been a polarizing prospect to the say the least leading up to this year’s draft.
The Russian-born right-winger spent the majority of this past season playing in the VHL (the Russian equivalent to the AHL) for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg where he put up 5pts in 14 games. He did get a brief stint in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg but failed to record a point in 3 games.
The scouting report on him shows a dynamic power-forward that plays a consistent game in all 3 zones. Podkolzin has NHL-size, standing 6-foot-1 weighing 196lbs and, following the age-old Russian stereotype, possess very good hands for his size. To add to that impressive skillset is his elite level offensive talent. Podkolzin has a deadly shot with a release that can give goaltenders fits. Of course, this leads to him having a deadly one-time shot that positions him as the ideal power-play trigger-man.
Too Good To Be True?
Hearing all this might make you think why Podkolzin isn’t the #1 prospect in this year’s draft...but only about a month or two ago he was considered the best player available after Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko. Here’s a look at what Sportsnet’s Sam Consentino had to say about Podkolizin on April 9th when he pegged him at #3:
Very flattering! Yet, here is Consentino describing Podkolzin on May 8th when he ranked him at #7:
It seems like a few lacklustre performances at the U18s and U20s, along with some rather pedestrian numbers in the Russian leagues he played in this season hurt his draft pedigree. The raw skill is evident, but the results just haven’t blown anyone away just yet. Everyone is still waiting for him to breakthrough and, although Russian-based leagues are rather low-scoring, NHL teams look at how players have performed before being drafted.
There is also the fact that he is a Russian. Like it or not, Russian players who are drafted out of their home country are often avoided when it comes to the draft. There is a rich history of quality Russian players choosing the KHL over the NHL and that threat will turn a lot of teams off.
The drop in the draft rankings is a combination of these two factors and it does add a layer of risk in drafting a player like Podkolzin.
A Fit in Edmonton?
The Edmonton Oilers enter the 2019 draft in search of two things: scoring wingers and puck moving D-men. Of course there are other things on the Ken Holland’s to-do list but these two positions are top priority and perhaps the most attainable when it comes to the draft.
Podkolzin checks off a lot of boxes for the Oilers. A power-forward, responsible in all 3 ends, and has killer offensive instincts. Podkolzin, in theory, would look very nice next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in 2-3 years ripping one-timers on the power-play. That’s might be a problem however.
Podkolzin is not going to be the in NHL for the next two years as he still has two years remaining on his KHL deal. He is a player that will need some time to really grow into his big body and he will get a shot to play against men in the KHL before he ventures over to the NHL.
Podkolzin is the type of player you invest a few years into before enjoying the fruits of your labour...and this might not be where Edmonton wants to go with this year’s selection.
That being said, Ken Holland does like to marinate his prospects for quite sometime before handing over NHL minutes and Podkolzin might intrigue the new Oilers GM. Late round bets like Datsyuk and Zetterberg worked out in the past for Holland and now he might have a chance to take on a high-risk high-reward player like Podkolzin early on in the draft.
Vasili Podkolzin is a very interesting prospect that could very well be available when the Edmonton Oilers pick at #8. His scouting report makes it seem like a match in heaven but the questions surrounding his production in Russia and his ETA are something to take into account.
If I were in Ken Holland’s shoes I would take a very long look at Podkolzin to see if he is a player worth betting on. It is my belief, however, that the team will look for a more NHL-ready forward that could see time in the NHL in 2020/21 who has played the North American game their entire lives.