Vasili Podkolzin is without a doubt one of the most polarizing prospects of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 17-year-old’s raw skill is clear as day — that’s not up for debate. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, complete difficult plays at high speed and he has a dangerous shot. His speed is good, but not great, however, due to an engine that doesn’t quit, his compete level and physicality are not up for debate either. These reasons — combined with his frame and how he excelled at international tournaments this season — are what make him an enticing top-five, or even a potential top-three selection this June.
Podkolzin tallied eight goals and 11 points in just five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer (the U-18s) while captaining Russia to a bronze medal finish. He also co-led the World Junior A Challenge in scoring in December with eight points in six games and helped his country win a silver medal. Most impressively, the winger surprisingly made the cut for Russia’s World Junior Championships squad, tallying three assists in seven games for a coach (Valeri Bragin) who usually shies away from using younger players at all.