Vasily Podkolzin’s team won again today, which is good or bad news, depending on your perspective.
The 19-year-old’s KHL team, SKA Saint Petersburg, advances to the conference finals with the win — thus delaying Podkolzin’s Canucks debut.
While the Canucks want their top prospect to have success — he picked up an assist today — they’d also love to get him to Vancouver as soon as possible.
Vasily Podkolzin picks up a primary 🍎assist🍎 to make it 4-0 SKA in the third period. He springs his linemate in and joins him on a 2-on-1 before he rips a wrist show past the goalie. pic.twitter.com/wkBbmqePgg
— 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) March 26, 2021
“We’re gonna wait for his contract to run out, and then he’s free from the KHL,” Benning said in January. “We want to try to talk to his agent and if we can try to get him signed and get him over here… He’s got an NHL body, he’s a big strong kid, his attention to detail is really good. We’re hoping that once we get him signed here that we can get him right into our lineup and see what he can do.”
That’s only going to be possible after Podkolzin’s team gets eliminated from the KHL playoffs, and following a 14-day quarantine upon entry into Canada.
The last game on the schedule for the Canucks is May 8, so there’s still time — but only barely.
The KHL playoffs follow a similar format to the Stanley Cup playoffs, with 16 teams competing in four rounds of best-of-seven series, with teams generally playing every second day.
There are two conference semi-final series still ongoing, so SKA isn’t likely to start the next round until early April. No matter which team SKA plays in the next round, CSKA Moscow or Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, it’s expected to be a competitive series.
If SKA gets eliminated in the next round, Podkolzin will likely be free to sign an entry-level contract with the Canucks by about mid-April. Then, if Podkolzin jumps on a plane to Vancouver soon after, he probably isn’t eligible to play NHL games until about May — and that’s if they rush him onto the ice after spending two weeks in a hotel room.
The Canucks have four games scheduled in May, and that could be valuable experience for him, but it might also just not be worth the hassle of moving across the world during a pandemic for only a week’s worth of practices and games.
Should SKA win their next series, the whole discussion is rendered moot, as Podkolzin would be playing in the KHL Final into late April or May.
At this point, it might just be for the best for Podkolzin to wait until next season, when hopefully the world is back to normal — or at least close to it. The 2019 first-round pick is enjoying his longest run of success in the KHL, now with six points in 10 playoff games.