Vasili Podkolzin didn’t post eye-popping numbers before he was drafted 10th overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
The league he spent the longest in last year was the VHL, or Supreme Hockey League, the second-tier men’s league below the KHL. In the VHL, Podkolzin played 22 regular season and playoff games and managed just 8 points. Combine that with no goals at the 2019 World Juniors and just one goal at the World Under-18s and you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
Here’s the thing: Podkolzin barely stayed long enough in one league to establish any sort of rhythm. Between the KHL, VHL, and MHL, and the U18 and U20 Russian teams, Podkolzin played for five different teams last season and never more than a dozen in a row with any one of them.
Podkolzin averaged just 3:30 per game in his three KHL games. In the VHL, he averaged just 12:18 per game in the regular season, then 7:48 per game in the playoffs. In the Russian men’s leagues, he just didn’t get much opportunity.
Even in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league, Podkolzin weirdly only averaged about 16 minutes of ice time per game. It’s hard to compare his production — 6 goals and 8 points in 12 games — with top prospects in North American junior leagues that sometimes averaged 20-25 minutes per game.
When you look at his total numbers across all five teams, they start to look a little better. According to tallies from NextGen Hockey, Podkolzin had 28 goals and 53 points in 74 games and was particularly dominant against his peers with the Russian U18 team, where he had 15 goals and 29 points in 22 games, which led his team by a wide margin.
If his numbers weren’t eye-popping, the goals he scored certainly were. If you want to watch all 28 of them, you’re in the right place. I bear no responsibility for any popped eyes that may occur.
The video below has 25 of Podkolzin’s 28 goals. If you have a spare 22-and-a-half minutes, I highly recommend giving it a watch.
Can’t watch the whole thing? That’s a shame because pretty much every goal is a banger. Here, I’ll break them all down for you.
1 | August 6, 2018 - Russia U18 vs Finland at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
The video starts in fine fashion, as Podkolzin dashes away from his defender to move in alone on the Finnish goaltender, who he then undresses with a hard move to the forehand. You're going to see him drive hard to the net a lot.
2 | August 7, 2018 - Russia U18 vs Czech Republic at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
As is his wont, Podkolzin drives wide on a defender, then cuts hard to the net, finishing off his own rebound.
3 | August 8, 2018 - Russia U18 vs USA at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
His first power play goal of the year was hammered into the net with a one-timer after Team USA penalty killers failed to clear the puck. That was just a merciless shot.
4 | August 8, 2018 - Russia U18 vs USA at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
What a ridiculous goal. For a moment, it looks like nothing. The defenceman has inside position on Podkolzin, but suddenly Podkolzin bursts off the boards, drives to the net, and roofs the puck, going post and in.
5 | August 10, 2018 - Russia U18 vs Sweden at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
There’s a reason Podkolzin was hyped as a top-three pick after the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Podkolzin was a beast, leading the tournament in scoring with 8 goals and 11 points in just 5 games. This was his most well-known goal, a piece of individual brilliance. He starts below his own goal line, then goes end-to-end, splitting the Swedish defence before beating the goaltender with a backhand from his knees. It might have been the best goal anyone scored all year. Even his coach couldn’t contain himself, nearly tackling one of his assistants.
6 | August 11, 2018 - Russia U18 vs USA at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
Podkolzin makes a fantastic cross-ice pass just before scoring on a return feed on the power play. He does very well to wait until the last moment to dart his stick past the defenceman to finish off the play, never giving away that he’s lurking in behind.
7 | August 11, 2018 - Russia U18 vs USA at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
Off another USA turnover on the power play, Podkolzin shows off his wrist shot, ripping the puck top corner to beat the goaltender cleanly. It’s a gorgeous and nigh-unstoppable shot.
8 | August 11, 2018 - Russia U18 vs USA at Hlinka Gretzky Cup
Podkolzin completes the hat trick with another incredible individual effort. His strength on his stick in the neutral zone helps him maintain possession, then he splits the defence and undresses the goaltender with a great move to the forehand with sticks all over him.
9 | September 8, 2018 - SKA-1946 vs Chekhov, MHL
For his first goal of the regular season, Podkolzin fades into space off the rush and drills a one-timer past the goaltender. That wasn’t well defended — you can even see the goaltender trying to point out the open Podkolzin as SKA comes across the line — but Podkolzin made no mistake.
10 | September 14, 2018 - SKA-1946 vs Cherepovets, MHL
There’s some wonky numbering in the video, as this goal is suddenly labeled goal number 8. There’s nothing wonky about the goal, however, as Podkolzin picks off a puck in the neutral zone, then utterly embarrasses a defenceman with a slick toe-drag before tucking the puck around the goaltender. Wow.
11 | September 18, 2018 - SKA-1946 vs Yaroslavl, MHL
Podkolzin doesn’t just blindly drive to the net on every rush. Here, he neatly cuts into the slot as the defenceman cuts off his path to the net, then fires a wrist shot over the goaltender’s blocker.
12 | September 27, 2018 - SKA-1946 vs Soviet Wings, MHL
It’s a nice shot to finish off the rush, putting the puck just over the left pad, but the more impressive part is the way he bursts through traffic in the neutral zone. Anticipating the stick-check, he simply pushes the puck ahead of himself, then jumps between the two defenders to get to the puck first.
13 | September 28, 2018 - SKA-1946 vs Soviet Wings, MHL
Another end-to-end rush from Podkolzin, but this time he doesn’t cut to the front of the net, instead catching the goaltender off-guard with a wicked shot underneath the blocker. He gets a piece of it, but not enough to keep it out of the net.
14 | October 19, 2018 - SKA-Neva vs Torpedo UK, VHL
This is a little out of order in the video, labeled as goal 15, but Podkolzin scored his first goal in the VHL on October 19th. He cycles the puck nicely in the corner, then finds his way to the slot to finish off the passing play.
15 | November 9, 2018 - Russia U20 vs Finland, Four Nations Tournament
This is the 14th goal in the video, when he got on the scoreboard in early November with the U20 team, scoring from a tough angle for a left-handed shot on the left side off a set faceoff play.
16 | January 9, 2019 - SKA-1946 vs Dynamo, MHL
Podkolzin evades a couple checks along the boards, then sets up his teammate in the slot with a nice pass from below the goal line. He’s stopped, but Podkolzin peels out from behind the net for the rebound, firing it just inside the post. Fantastic shot.
17 | February 5, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Sweden, Five Nations Tournament
Finally, an unimpressive goal from Podkolzin. It’s an empty net goal after he creates a turnover with an aggressive play at the Swedish blue line.
18 | February 6, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Czech Republic, Five Nations Tournament
Podkolzin’s one-timer doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he scored a few goals with it last season. Here he hammers the puck back against the grain from the top of the right faceoff circle.
19 | February 6, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Czech Republic, Five Nations Tournament
We barely catch this goal in the video, but what little we see is impressive. Podkolzin, with a defender hanging off him, dekes to the backhand to beat the Czech goaltender for his second goal of the game.
20 | February 22, 2019 - SKA-Neva vs Metallurg, VHL
It may look like Podkolzin is constantly going end-to-end for highlight-reel goals, but it’s only because he is. He once again splits two defenders, then delays for a split moment before beating the goaltender inside the far post with a quick snap shot.
21 | March 1, 2019 - SKA-Neva vs Orsk, VHL Playoffs
Podkolzin executes beautifully on this 2-on-1, setting up Pavel Kukshtel, then finishing the return feed.
22 | March 19, 2019 - SKA-Neva vs Falcons Kr, VHL Playoffs
This goal is weirdly reminiscent of the Kevin Bieksa stanchion goal from the 2011 playoffs. Like Bieksa’s goal, it seems like only Podkolzin knew where the puck was, as it somehow bounced into open space with everyone else looking the other way. And, like Bieksa’s goal, it was the game winner that sent his team to the next round of the playoffs.
Despite the goal, Podkolzin didn’t play for SKA-Neva in the VHL semifinals, which they lost in a sweep. Coincidence?
23 | March 21, 2019 - SKA-1946 vs Cherepovets, MHL Playoffs
Instead of finishing out the playoffs in the VHL, Podkolzin joined SKA-1946 for the MHL playoffs and quickly got on the scoreboard. With no path to the net, Podkolzin pulls up and feeds his linemate. The pass doesn’t land cleanly, but it works out: the bouncing puck comes back to Podkolzin in the right faceoff circle and he beats the goaltender cleanly with a wristshot just inside the near post.
24 | March 24, 2019 - SKA-1946 vs Cherepovets, MHL Playoffs
Playing netfront on the power play, Podkolzin finishes off a rebound with some quick hands, moving the puck to his backhand to tuck it around the goaltender.
25 | April 28, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Sweden, World Under-18 Championship
Podkolzin may not have lit the lamp at the World Under-18s like he did the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but the one goal he did score was fantastic and it came at the right time: the gold medal game. He drives around the defenceman, protects the puck, then pulls it back under the defenceman’s stick to get his shot off and under the goaltender’s arm.
The goal is initially called off and Podkolzin is even given a penalty for goaltender’s interference, but a video review pretty quickly sets that straight. Unfortunately for Podkolzin and Russia, it wasn’t enough, as Sweden eventually won in overtime.
That’s 25 of Podkolzin’s 28 goals from last season. The three missing goals appear to be from the 2018 World Junior-A Challenge, where Podkolzin led the tournament with eight points in six games.
The tournament took place in December before Podkolzin joined the U20 team for the World Junior Championship: he didn’t play a league game in all of December. Heck, he played just three league games in all of November: one in the KHL and two in the VHL. That should put his relative lack of scoring in perspective.
Technically, Podkolzin’s three goals at the World Junior-A Challenge are goals 16, 17, and 18.
16a | December 9, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Canada East, World Junior A Challenge
Look at the patience from Podkolzin. After gaining the zone, he pulls up to drop the puck off to his teammate. If he had seen the Canada East defenceman was about to take a tumble, unable to keep up with Podkolzin’s change in pace and direction, he probably would have cut to the net instead.
It all works out: Podkolzin gets the puck down low and waits for the defenceman to slide across in a futile attempt to block the shot, then roofs the backhand past the goaltender.
17a | December 9, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Canada East, World Junior A Challenge
The highlight of this goal isn’t the goal itself, but the nifty pass Podkolzin makes between his legs. He then stands still for a moment, lulling his defender into a false sense of security. As soon as the Canada East player bends down to pick up his stick, Podkolzin darts past him and ends up wide open in front for the finish.
18a | December 10, 2019 - Russia U18 vs Czech Republic, World Junior A Challenge
The lone shorthanded goal of the bunch, Podkolzin takes advantage of a nice play by Ilya Nikolaev to burst the other way and rip a shot from distance past the Czech goaltender to open the scoring.
That is immensely satisfying. Podkolzin scored some gorgeous goals last season and seeing them all in a row reinforces just how much he bounced between teams and leagues.
Hopefully Podkolzin experiences a little more consistency next season. He’ll still just be 18, so maybe it’s too much to expect him to spend the entire year in the KHL, but perhaps he’ll get a longer look in the KHL, more minutes in the VHL, and avoid the MHL entirely. He also won’t have to worry about the U18 team and will likely play a larger role for Russia at the World Juniors, where he saw limited ice time as a 17 year old last year.