Vasily Podkolzin plans on playing in the NHL, and hopes teams are willing to have patience with him.
The Russia-born forward (6-1, 196), No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters for the 2019 NHL Draft, has two seasons remaining on his contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League and plans on fulfilling them. But he says the NHL is a place he wants to be.
"To play in NHL is a dream of any player," he said via a translator.
NHL teams certainly would like to add a player with Podkolzin's skills and work ethic.
"Podkolzin is a fantastic team player," director of NHL European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "During the season he also showed that he is an excellent two-way player. He's very responsible in his defensive play. He's a power forward, an excellent skater."
Video: Vasili Podkolzin ranks No. 6 on Draft Prospects list
One NHL scout said the two-year contract could scare teams off, but that Podkolzin likely needs the extra development time.
"Realistically you can wait," the scout said. "Most of these kids are going to need two years before they're going to make an impact anyway. … He's a very team-oriented kid, good body language, high compete. There's been more talented Russians over the years offensively, but he's a very compete player, a competitive kid. He's not going to fall too far."
The first round of the 2019 Draft is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (NHLN, SN).
Podkolzin said he patterns his game after some of the top Russia-born forwards in the NHL, among them Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Artemi Panarin of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals. They were three of the top four Russia-born scorers in the NHL this season, but Podkolzin also understands how important it is to play in his end.
"Modern hockey game, the player has to play defense as well as offense," he said.
Podkolzin showcased his talent on a number of different teams this season, starting with the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in Edmonton in August, where he had tournament-highs of eight goals and 11 points in five games to help Russia finish third.
He had five points (two goals, three assists) with SKA St. Petersburg's team in Russia's top minor league, and eight points (six goals, two assists) in 12 games Russia's junior league. He also made his KHL debut, getting into three games with SKA St. Petersburg.
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Along the way Podkolzin tied for the scoring lead at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alberta in early December with eight points (three goals, five assists) in six games, and had three assists in seven games to help Russia finish third at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver in January.
He finished his season wiht four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games at the World Under-18 Championship in Sweden in April.
Podkolzin didn't make excuses but said the long season left him tired by the time the U-18s started.
"A younger player playing for five or six teams in a season, there's no home for him," Stubb said. "Talent is there, skating is there. He's a captain on most of the teams he's played with. He'll be OK."
Podkolzin said he'll be working on fixing the few things that didn't work for him this season.
"I still have more room to grow and achieve greater heights," he said.
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