Vitaly Podkolzin is one of the most polarizing prospects of the 2019 NHL Draft. The eye-test and stat-test show completely different results. Combined, the two make him the most obvious “boom or bust” candidate in the draft.
Scouting prospects in the NHL is hard work. There are some many factors you have to consider. Advanced analytics have begun to do a lot of the work for us, but the eye test is still meaningful. The 2019 NHL Draft features a player the eye test and analytics test disagree strongly about – Visali Podkolzin from Russia.
Many have him going in the top five. There are those who believe he could go as high as the third overall pick. Podkolzin certainly has the talent to be in the top five, but his stats tell a completely different story.
Compared to other Russian prospects in recent years, his results are quite underwhelming. For example, Vitali Kravtsov, picked ninth in the 2018 NHL Draft, put up noticeably better numbers than him.
Weight: 191 pounds
Teams: SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL); SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL); SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Position: Right wing
Date of birth: June 24, 2001
All profile info is courtesy of Elite Prospects.
Podkolzin looks like a strong hockey player. He jumps out at you when you watch him on tape. Podkolzin had borderline elite speed and borderline elite acceleration.
His shot is really powerful when he decides to use it and he’s physical, yet pretty disciplined, which is remarkable given his young age. If you’re looking for a raw prospect, you’re not going to find anyone with a cleaner slate than Podkolzin. This is understandably attractive for some teams.
He has been flat out dominant on international ice. With Russia’s U-18 team, he has posted 15 points in 8 games this season. Even with Russia’s U-20 team, Podkolzin was quite noticeable with three points in seven games at the WJC and five points in 12 games overall.
If you watched Podkolzin play and didn’t keep track of goals, assists, or points, there’s a good chance you’d come away with a very positive opinion of him. There’s truly a lot to like about him.
While there’s a lot to like about Podkolzin, there’s an equal amount of things to dislike about him. The most obvious red flag is his lack of production.
Podkolzin was overwhelmed in three KHL games, putting up no goals, assists, or points. He wasn’t even that impressive in the MHL or VHL, combining for 13 points in 26 games between the two leagues. Lesser prospects have dominated those leagues, so you’ve got to wonder why Podkolzin’s stats failed to impress.
A huge reason his stats aren’t good is he plays a rather selfish game. Podkolzin can definitely create chances for himself. However, he fails to involve his teammates and really struggles to create chances for others.
As skilled as Podkolzin is, it’s next to impossible to survive in the NHL on skill alone. He has to take that next step and learn how to work well with his teammates. It’s honestly alarming how bad Podkolzin is in this regard.
If I were an NHL general manager (and I’m not one, probably for a good reason), there’s no way I could justify selecting Podkolzin in the top 10. Possibly even the top 15. Not in this draft, where there are similarly talented players who have much larger track records of success.
It wouldn’t shock me if Podkolzin becomes a regular NHL player. His skill alone will grant him countless chances in that regard. However, it also wouldn’t shock me if Podkolzin never gets more than a cup of coffee in the NHL.
He’s very hard to project because of his immaturity and his raw game. Which is why I don’t think he’s worth picking until at least the 19th overall pick. But it wouldn’t surprise me if teams fall in love with his potential, because his upside is undeniably one of the highest in the 2019 draft. His floor, though, is undeniably one of the lowest.
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