It’s the latest edition of the weekly tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

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It’s the latest edition of the weekly tracker, where we tally up the efforts of the Vancouver Canucks’ highest-profile prospects:

Vasili Podkolzin

There’s no better teacher in life than experience.

So for all the angst this season over his ice time and deployment, what Vasili Podkolzin is getting in these KHL playoffs is nothing short of a PhD in prospect development.

The Canucks’ 2019 first-rounder continued to earn the confidence of the SKA St. Petersburg coaching staff this past week, notching three points in three games to help SKA dispose of Dynamo Moscow in five games to reach the third round on the Gagarin Cup playoffs.

After going without a point over the first two games of the series, Podkolzin produced in Monday’s 3-2 overtime win. Just four minutes into the game, the 19-year-old helped steal the puck in the neutral zone before linemate Ivan Morozov found him streaking down the right wing. Podkolzin took it from there, lowering his shoulder and going hard to the net before cramming in his own rebound.

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Podkolzin, playing on the third line with youngsters Morozov and Kirill Marchenko, finished the game with a goal, two shots on net and two blocked shots in 16:11 of ice time.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-shot winger kept up his strong play in Wednesday’s 3-1 Game 4 win, getting two more shots on net (with one resulting in a rebound goal) while blocking a shot in 12:23 of ice time.

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“Two even, high-quality teams are competing against each other, it’s a battle of character. The ice hockey itself is completely different in comparison to the regular season,” Podkolzin said post-game.

“The guys are following the coach’s plan, they’re competing hard across all zones of the ice. When you play in the correct way, you are rewarded.”

In Friday’s series-clinching victory, Podkolzin played a role in the 4-0 win despite skating for a team-low 8:07. As the net-front presence on the second power-play unit, Podkolzin positioned himself smartly in front and provided a perfect screen as a point shot was blasted past a blinded Dynamo goaltender.

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Then Podkolzin played provider, picking off a pass in the SKA defensive zone before springing Vladislav Tsitsyura for the game’s fourth goal.

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Podkolzin ended the game with an assist, a plus-1 rating, one shot on net and one hit.

His six points (3G, 3A) in 10 playoff games leads all under-20 KHL players this post-season. Podkolzin has a chance to tie or even surpass New York Rangers prospect Vitaly Kravstov’s (2018, ninth overall) KHL U-20 record of 11 points, compiled over 16 games during the 2017-18 post-season.

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Considering that Podkolzin couldn’t even get into the SKA lineup during stretches of the regular season, the teenager has come a long way over a short period of time.

He’s now thriving in the playoff pressure cooker, playing his power game with the puck while checking off defensive assignments like the English lessons he’s taking before his time in Vancouver.

And with SKA set to face archrival CSKA Moscow for Game 1 of the Conference final on Friday — a series that’s sure to be a drawn-out dogfight — the chance that the Canucks’ top prospect plays on this side of the pond later this season appears to be slim to nil.

It doesn’t work time-wise, with Podkolzin still under contract until April 30. And it doesn’t make sense in practical terms, considering we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and quarantine protocols would have to be followed.

Podkolzin may also get the call for Team Russia at the IIHF World Championships that begins on May 21, something he’d be obliged to suit up for before stepping foot in Vancouver.

“Technically, his contract goes to the end of the world championships,” Canucks GM Jim Benning told the media in December. “That’s when his contract technically ends.”

The only way Podkolzin plays with the Canucks this season is if SKA gets eliminated quickly in the conference finals and goes the same route that Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg went with Anatoly Golyshev, when the team ripped up the 26-year-old’s KHL contract a couple of weeks ago so the winger could sign a one-year deal with the New York Islanders.

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For Podkolzin and the Canucks, there’s no point in rushing him here and potentially burning a year off his entry-level contract to play for a team that’s most likely to miss the playoffs.

He’s getting all the big-game experience he needs in Russia anyway.


Dmitri Zlodeyev was a sixth-round draft pick, 175th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Dmitri Zlodeyev was a sixth-round draft pick, 175th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Photo by Russian Ice Hockey Federation /PNG

Dmitri Zlodeyev

Call an ambulance — but not for him.

After six weeks on the shelf with a broken bone in his face, Zlodeyev returned to action this past week for Dynamo Moscow of Russia’s junior-tier MHL and helped sweep aside Krasnaya Armiya 3-0 in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.

Zlodeyev, the Canucks’ sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft, played the role of third-line centre and collected two assists over three games, both to linemate Brogdan Trineyev.

He skated for 13:15 in his return from injury and got his first assist in Tuesday’s 3-1 Game 2 win. On the play, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound centre won an offensive zone faceoff, went to the net and set up Trineyev for a goal in tight.

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Then in Friday’s series-clinching 3-1 win, the defensive-minded Zlodeyev stole the puck in the offensive zone before finding Trineyev in the high slot for the game-tying 1-1 goal.

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Zlodeyev, who also saw time on the team’s penalty kill, had a scoring chance of his own late in the game, but fired the puck off the goaltender’s shoulder.

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“Watching your team play from the side is hard,” Zlodeyev said last week. “I wanted to get on the ice sooner, I think it gave an emotional boost.”

No. 1-ranked Dynamo Moscow next face No. 5-ranked Tolpar in the semifinals. Zlodeyev, 19, had also played 19 games this season for Dynamo’s second-tier team (7G, OA), which was knocked out in the first round of the VHL playoffs.

Zlodeyev has two assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating in three MHL playoff games so far.

Elsewhere: The Utica Comets have been sidelined since March 10 due to “an abundance of caution in accordance with the AHL’s COVID-19 protocols” and have missed seven games since then. The team’s next game is scheduled for Wednesday, March 31 against the Syracuse Crunch.

mraptis@postmedia.com

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