Bob Peace - USA TODAY Sports
NHL Prospect Report

AHL Stock Watch: Vasili Podkolzin putting himself in a position for a callup

The AHL isn't an easy place to be for a rookie. Most newcomers go from being the go-to guy on their junior team to limited minutes, playing in the bottom-six and having to scratch and claw and prove themselves for every shift.

What's even more difficult than debuting in the AHL as a rookie is suddenly being dropped down to it at 21- or 22-years-old after your development has plateaued in the NHL. Few recover from walking that path, but the ones that do are often better for it.

That may be what happens for our first highlighted player in February's AHL Stock Watch, as he has the internal drive needed to make this AHL experience a transformative one. 

Stock Rising 📈

Vasili Podkolzin, RW, Abbotsford Canucks (Vancouver Canucks)

Vasili Podkolzin’s strengths haven’t changed in Abbotsford. His game continues to shine brightest on the forecheck and when battling for pucks. The pressure he applies low in the offensive zone fuels his offence. It forces the opposition into the mistakes that his line can then capitalize on. 

He’s jumping on loose pucks, taking them to the slot, and most of all, he’s using his shot effectively. The string of games from last weekend were among his best in years. He scored five points, including two goals and an assist on the overtime winner on Saturday, when the Canucks faced the Bakersfield Condors in a return match. 

Scoring regularly and adding some confidence might be exactly what Podkolzin needs to start dominating the AHL and putting himself in a position for a call-up back to Vancouver. They're gearing up for a long playoff run. They may need the physical edge and motor that their 10th overall pick can provide at some point. 

To become an even better play-driver over the next few weeks, Podkolzin will need to tighten up his defensive game and improve his awareness. At times, opponents can slip behind him on defence and close down his space on offence without him noticing. 

That said, he has sent a few slick passes to teammates in transition over the past couple of weeks. That’s a good sign that his playmaking game is resurfacing. 

Shane Wright, C, Coachella Valley Firebirds (Seattle Kraken)

After a dip in scoring in December, Shane Wright is back on his early season point-per-game track. More than that, he seems to be playing more freely and aggressively than we’ve seen in years past.

He’s pulling off more deft protection moves on the wall to hold on to the puck, escape with it, and make plays to teammates in open ice, and he’s continuously driving the slot and the net. His tipping and rebounding abilities seem to be improving, and he looks more and more comfortable playing a net-front/bumper role on the power play. 

Traditionally, teams have used him more on the half-wall with a man advantage, but that slot position may suit his game better. It’s becoming more clear as he develops that Wright won’t match the playmaking talent of some of the top quarterbacks in the NHL. He doesn’t have that kind of creativity. But few are better at playing in between defenders and finding space than Wright. This talent — and his high-end release — could make him an effective slot trigger-man on the power play. 

What has been the most encouraging about Wright’s play so far in the AHL is his increased pace. More engaged and assertive, he’s performing his defensive roles better and winning more pucks back for his team. 

Stock Steady ↔️

Aatu Räty, C/W, Abbotsford Canucks (Vancouver Canucks)

Aatu Räty still projects as a significantly below-average NHL skater, but his AHL play remains encouraging overall, as he’s figuring out how to make the most of his assets.

He can’t beat opponents in straight lines, but he adapts by cutting alongside the width of the ice to find openings, and he involves teammates in his plays every time he can. Defensively, he anticipates the rotations of the opposition and adjusts his coverage. He also manages the puck well, placing it behind the backs of defenders when he can’t find an open teammate to deliver it to.

Räty’s smart, two-way style of game could turn him into a useful NHLer. 

Tyler Kleven, C/W, Belleville Senators (Ottawa Senators)

Tyler Kleven had one of the best goals of the AHL season a few weeks ago. He spotted a lane between multiple defenders in the neutral zone and skated right into it. Pushing the puck ahead, he pierced through the formation and beat the goalie with a top-net shot. That’s not the kind of goal you expect from a defencemen and certainly not one of his size. 

Kleven has always been perceived as more of a shutdown type, but the offensive side of his game continues to develop. He’s taking his opportunities to activate into the play in the offensive zone and he directs his shots well from the point, aiming for sticks and through screens. 

He remains the same punishing defender and his physical side will certainly serve him well in the NHL. 

To take his game to the next level, however, he will need to work on his defensive footwork and timing. He can overcommit on attackers when going for a hit or a poke check. Sometimes, it may be best for him to simply contain them and deny them access to the middle of the ice. A bit more awareness on breakout would also help him spend less time in the defensive zone and more on the offence, giving him even more chances to work on his skills in that facet of the game. 

Stock Falling 📉

Danila Klimovich, C/W, Abbotsford Canucks (Vancouver Canucks)

Danila Klimovich continues to only play minutes in the AHL. He seems to be falling behind the usual development curve for NHL prospects. We understand that he has been injured, but two and a half years after his draft, it’s still a bad sign for his development.

While his tools continue to shine at times, he hasn’t really figured out how to use them to create consistent offensive advantages for his team. 

He can keep up with the pace and create some space for himself with abrupt stops and feints, but you often see him rely on the same two or three plays. Most of his offensive presence ends early because he directs pucks at the net too quickly.

To become a consistent NHL player, Klimovich needs to work on his checking game and puck management, while also continuing to develop his creativity. It’s a tall order. That said, we remain fans of his style of play. His best moments remind us why we liked him so much in his draft year.

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This article is about:
NHL Prospect Report Abbotsford Canucks Belleville Senators Coachella Valley Firebirds Ottawa Senators Seattle Kraken Vancouver Canucks AHL Tyler Kleven Danila Klimovich Vasili Podkolzin Aatu Räty Shane Wright
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