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Canucks GM Jim Benning explored this possibility in December, telling Daniel Wagner from Vancouverisawesome.com that “technically, his contract goes to the end of the World Championship. That’s when his contract technically ends.”

“They haven’t been cancelled yet, but I’ll be very surprised if they have the World Championships,” said Benning. “Then we can contact the Russian Federation and IIHF and ask them since the World Championships are going to be cancelled, then we can sign him early.”

One look at the IIHF website shows a slate of cancelled tournaments for 2021, with the only one still standing being the World Championships — so Benning’s hunch that the tournament may not take place could be right.

The development comes at a time when Podkolzin is playing his most complete hockey of the season, scoring another game-winning goal for SKA St. Petersburg this past week and getting rewarded for it with oodles of ice time by a typically stingy coaching staff.

In Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Severstal, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound winger looked every bit the blue chip prospect the Canucks believe they are getting.

In just 11:23 of ice time, Podkolzin had several scoring chances and created several others, using his unique combination of speed, stickhandling and power to penetrate the Severstal defence.

On one sequence early in the second period, the 19-year-old circled around the offensive zone, blowing by at least four defenders before getting stopped on a Grade-A chance in front.

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