Currently, Vasily Podkolzin is in a four-game streak as his line with Ivan Morozov, and Kirill Marchenko keeps on delivering after a solid performance at the recent WJC in the Czech Republic. There, the SKA's troika helped Team Russia getting back home with silver hardware. Vasily scored his first KHL point on Jan. 21, picking an exceptional opponent as he scored the opening goal in the Army derby against CSKA, lost 2-3 OT. Two days later, against Barys, with SKA down 2-3 in the second period, Vasily played give-and-go in the offensive zone with Lukas Bengtsson and found twine after a shot from the left circle. In the end, SKA defeated Nur-Sultan with a 7-4 score. On Jan. 26, SKA picked up another win, this time with Torpedo as their victim, with Podkolzin's troika producing two goals for SKA and Vasily having a helper himself in the opening goal by Morozov. Yesterday, with SKA victorious 5-0 over Dinamo Minsk, Podkolzin first had an assist, then fought the Belarussian team's veteran Shane Prince. "It was a good game," Podkolzin said after the victory. "We dominated for the whole time and had a fantastic start. We were very motivated. My fight with Prince was coming from a regular play. As much as I understood, one of his teammate's sticks hit Prince in the face, and he thought that I hit him myself. I couldn't do much other than agreeing to fight."
Podkolzin was born to a hockey family and grow up in Maryino, a Moscow district. "My family loves hockey," Podkolzin told KHL.ru last year. "My grandpa played for Khimik Voskresensk, my father also is a huge hockey fan and plays in the local amateur league." His career started in the local team, and he had some hard times, especially against his future team. "We played in the Moscow Championship against the White Bears and lost 4-26", the young SKA forward recalls. "That time, I scored all my team's four goals. Naturally, I started hating the White Bears. I couldn't handle such a score. A few days later, my mother gets into my room and tells me: 'Vasya, we can move you to the White Bears. What do you think?' I was shocked: 'Mama, I told you that I hate them!"
After playing with the White Bears, Podkolzin climbed the ranks and was invariably one of the best players in Moscow. He also moved to Vityaz in the meantime. Then, he finally reached the age to start representing Russia on the international stage. In August 2018, during the Hlinka Gretzky Cup semifinals, at two minutes to the final horn with Russian down by one goal to Sweden, Podkolzin picked up the puck in the defensive zone, run through the whole rink, undressed two defensemen and scored a memorable goal. He repeated his trick the next day in the bronze medal game against Team USA.
"Vasily loved scoring these goals when he was younger as well," Podkolzin's youth coach Igor Dekin remembers. "I remember that once we were playing against Rus'. A difficult game, we were tied at zero and had to play three-on-five hockey. Podkolzin picked up the puck, run through the rink even though we were down two men, scored, and we won the game 1-0. But that was in kids' hockey, not an international competition against the best players in the world in your birth year."
After making a massive impact on Team Russia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Podkolzin finally had his KHL first game with SKA. "At first I've been told that I'll be the 13th forward. Something like, go there, watch, and learn," Vasily remembers his debut against Avtomobilist on Nov. 12, 2018. "I spent two periods on the bench; I was quite cold. Then Ilya Vorobyov speaks out loud the next line: Gusev – Datsyuk – Podkolzin. It was quite a shock, so I say Nikita: 'Gus, my legs are shaking, I can't do it.' He suggested me to breathe out, and I started playing better."
Later that year, Podkolzin was called to his first WJC in Canada, where he played under Valery Bragin. Recently, Bragin was hired by SKA, as Vasily's troika will reunite with him. "I was shocked when I saw Bragin entering the locker room," Podkolzin said after yesterday's game. "You can feel the energy transmitting directly from him. It's great to be working with him again, and I'm grateful for having this opportunity."
"Bragin is like a second father for us," Morozov added. "He knows how to work with us as we played two years for him."
After collecting medals with the U18 and U20 national teams, having his debut and first points in pro hockey, and getting drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks in 2019, he has yet another achievement in front of himself. Podkolzin, Morozov, Marchenko, and another four WJC medallists will take part in the next Euro Hockey Tour stage in Sweden – it's time for Podkolzin to step up even more and reach the next level.