Welcome Matt: Canucks need a strong finish from Podkolzin after suspect start

Mar 10 2023, 2:45 am

sekeres and price

On today’s show, we are talking about Rick Tocchet fixing J.T. Miller and Andrei Kuzmenko hitting 30 goals.

As the rest of the Canucks’ schedule meanders on, we will be talking about Vasily Podkolzin.

At least, we should be. If we’re not, something will be wrong.

Because this is the second year running where the Russian winger enters the home stretch with lots of eyeballs on his development, and plenty of available ice time. Last year in this spot, he impressed with four goals and six assists in the final 15 games.

It’s been three goals in 15 games since he was summoned back up from Abbotsford. This after going 17 NHL games off the top of the season without a goal.

He’s not going to get to last season’s totals of 14 goals and 26 points, but one thing remains clear: for the Canucks to turn this around and approach contention in the next two years, Vasily Podkolzin has to be a player.

He can’t sink into the Sea of Granlunds and just be another pedestrian forward. He has to be, at minimum, a middle-six winger who can be trusted with defensive matchups and is a contributor offensively.

He’s a 10th overall pick in an organization that doesn’t have a lot of prospects or cap space, and is going to try and trade wingers to fix the defence and alleviate its cap crunch. There are not many outs for Canucks management if Podz isn’t a player.

We have bemoaned that he hasn’t been tested as a penalty killer. Perhaps that’s too much, too soon, although the Canucks can’t get much worse in that area.

Little by little, he’s being trusted in matchup and end-of-game scenarios. That has to continue.

The winger depth chart is still relatively deep, although that could change if Brock Boeser and Conor Garland move on. If they stay, perhaps he can be a low-output, bottom-six winger again next year at age 22, but that would be the end of the training wheels.

Ideally, Podkolzin has another strong finish and looks ready for middle-six duty from the start of next year. The year after, he challenges for top-six minutes.

But the pressure is about to mount, and the player has to respond.

Matthew SekeresMatthew Sekeres

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