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2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Vasili Podkolzin

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The third ranked forward in this year’s draft could be the next Brendan Shanahan.

Russia v Switzerland: Bronze Medal Game - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

As the 2019 NHL Entry Draft approaches, the Los Angeles Kings have their work cut out for them, including making decisions on two first-round picks: the fifth pick and the 22nd pick, thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs. From now until the draft, the staff of Jewels from the Crown will be taking a look at some draft-eligible players to help introduce some young men who could very possibly be future Kings.

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“With the fifth pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Los Angeles Kings select, from SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, Vasili Podkolzin.”

Podkolzin is one of the biggest boom or bust prospects in the last decade of NHL drafts. His current contract in Russia restricting him from starting in the NHL for two years doesn’t help either.

But, before we get into the strengths and weaknesses and why the Kings should take a hard pass on this special player, let’s get the basics out of the way…

HOCKEY CARD STATS

Born: June 24, 2001 (Age 17)
Place of Birth: Moscow, Russia
2018-19 Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
Position: RW
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 190 lbs.
Shoots: Left

RANKINGS

#2—NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (European Skaters)
#3—ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
#3—FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
#3—HOCKEYPROSPECT.COM
#3—TSN/McKenzie
#4—ISS HOCKEY
#5—MCKEEN’S HOCKEY

STRENGTHS

Podkolzin is clearly the most polarizing pick on the 2019 draft board. His raw skill overwhelms you. When you see him you can almost hear the Superman Theme during warmups: stronger than a diesel engine, able to complete the most insanely difficult plays at high speed, stickhandling extraordinaire, and a dangerous shot that makes the average goalie’s collarbone whimper. He’s a grinder and a scorer and never quits on any play. He elevates in games that matter most. Quite simply he’s the quintessential power forward of the 2020s.

WEAKNESSES

Unlike the old guard Russian players (Sergei Fedorov, Alexei Kovalev, Pavel Datsyuk) Podkolzin is a “me first” forward who creates for himself but scraps to include his teammates. The end result is gaps between what you expect production-wise and what you actually get.

Another area that has been virtually ignored in all of the boastful write-ups on Podkolzin is the fact that he often plays with his head down. This was especially evident at the world juniors where he got lit up quite a few times.

While he possesses all of the skills needed to dominate in the NHL, there’s just as much a chance he could become a dominant third-line checking forward who can play with pace and irritate opponents but gives you only 35 points a season. Quite simply he’s the quintessential feast or famine pick this year.

INTANGIBLES

“Podkolzin checks all the intangible blocks, as he can be counted on to address a variety of his coach’s concerns. 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. Podkolzin is effective both in open ice and during trench warfare, and he’s capable of completing on-the-tape passes that lead directly to quality chances near the net..” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst

WHY THE KINGS SHOULD HARD PASS

I mean, who doesn’t need the next Cam Neely, Brendan Shanahan, or even Wendel Clark? You know the Kings need him every day of the week and twice on Sundays. But he’s signed with Ilya Kovalchuk’s former KHL team (SKA St. Petersburg) through the 2020-21 season and rumor has it that he wants to stay in Russia even longer. Can the Kings risk him not suiting up for three to five years in the middle of their Reset Plan? I guess you could say yes if he slides into the Toronto pick the Kings own, but if he’s there at number five, I’d say that’s a definite hard pass. Wouldn’t you?

HIGHLIGHT REEL