How's everybody holding up?
With the 10th pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Stan Smyl told the assembled crowd at Rogers Arena on Friday night that the Vancouver Canucks had selected winger Vasily Podkolzin, from St. Petersburg, Russia.
That was *not* what I was expecting, even though NHL.com's Adam Kimelman, who spends a lot of time covering prospects, projected Podkolzin to the Canucks in the NHL.com Mock Draft
So here's what I know—Podkolzin's a right-wing sniper, already listed at 6'1" and 196 pounds—and he doesn't turn 18 for another three days. He first came onto our radar here in North America with an outstanding performance at last summer's Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he tied Canada's Alexis Lafreniere for the tournament lead in scoring with 11 points and led the tournament with eight goals in five games.
He had another good outing with Russia at the World Junior Championship, finishing with three assists as an underager.
At Christmastime, Podkolzin was often mentioned as the consensus No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft class, behind Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. But his stock slipped as the year went on. There was talk that he was playing through a knee injury that was slowing him down. And there was plenty of conversation that teams were cautious about taking him because he's under contract for another two years in Russia.
Leading into the draft, Podkolzin was adamant that his goal was to come to the NHL.
Because so many teams are cautious about drafting Russian players, they can offer great value when they do pan out. Obvious examples: Vladimir Tarasenko, selected 16th overall by St. Louis in 2010 and Evgeny Kuznetsov, chosen 26th that same year. But at the other end of the spectru, you can get a Valeri Nichuskin, picked 10th overall by Dallas in 2013. He had a solid rookie season with the Stars as an 18-year-old but then his development stalled. He went back to Russia for two years before returning to Dallas last season, but famously didn't score a single goal in the entire 2018-19 season.
Or what about Kirill Kaprizov—a fifth-round pick by the Minnesota Wild who has blossomed into a solid KHL player. The problem is, he was drafted in 2015 and still hasn't given any indication that he's ready to make the jump to North America.
There are two sides to the coin, although Podkolzin seems to be doing all he can to alleviate any worry.
Though a translator today, he told reporters at Rogers Arena he's ready to put in the work over the next two seasons so that he's NHL-ready when his KHL obligations are complete.
"Everybody knows that I'm not a great, great skater. But I know myself that I have to work on that. During these two years, I'll work on my skating and all the aspects of the game."
Given the Canucks' record with recent first-rounders, I'll reserve judgement. Last year, I was high on Filip Zadina, who was taken one pick before Quinn Hughes. In 2017, I was more wishy-washy, but I wasn't thrilled about the Elias Pettersson chatter that heated up before the draft. I was also stymied by the Brock Boeser pick in 2015.
I'm not worried about the two-year window. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, that's no different from a college-bound kid, really. Now I just have to go through my period of mourning for the prospects that I fancied.
This past week, I got on the Peyton Krebs train—and poured my envy over a radio reporter from Vegas who was sitting near me in the press area when we found out that Krebs was headed to the Golden Knights. And I'll be very curious to see how Alex Newhook pans out, and whether Cole Caufield's brash confidence can really take him all the way to NHL success.
And how ‘bout my boy Moritz Seider, climbing all the way to No. 6?? He should have been at the top prospects availability in Coal Harbour on Thursday!
Other Canucks-related news from the draft floor on Friday:
• Alex Burrows was on hand to say hello alongside the announcement that he'll be the next inductee into the Canucks' Ring of Honour this fall, as part of the team's 50th anniversary celebrations.
• Daniel and Henrik Sedin also made an appearance, alongside Gary Bettman, in an opening gag that I thought was pretty entertaining. Bettman, of course, was booed when he first took to the stage, in his usual fashion. Unable to make himself heard, he bailed offstage, but solved the problem when he returned with the twins.
In-house, a video was run earlier that recapped the events of 20 years ago, when Brian Burke pulled off a monster deal to bring Daniel and Henrik to Vancouver. (In hindsight, I wasn't so sure about that one, either...)
On Friday, it was announced that Daniel and Henrik's jersey retirement would highlight the Canucks' week-long 50th anniversary celebration next February.
With no salary-cap number in place yet for next season, Friday was very quiet for trade action, with just one pick-for-picks deal that saw the Flyers move down, getting defenseman Cam York at 14 plus the 45th pick in exchange for their 11th pick, which Arizona used to take Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom.
It seems like everyone wants to know what the cap number for next season will be before they start wheeling and dealing. Will we get that action on Saturday?