Podkolzin is one of a host of talented players who are viewed as the potential third-best prospect in the draft behind American center Jack Hughes and Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko.
Despite being just 17 years of age, Podkolzin already has some experience playing in Russia's KHL, which is widely considered the No. 2 league in the world behind the NHL. According to NHL.com's Igor Eronko, Podkolzin made history by appearing in a KHL game:
All told, Podkolzin played three games for SKA St. Petersburg, registering no points and a minus-one rating.
In addition to his short KHL stint, Podkolzin played for SKA St. Petersburg's lower-level teams in the MHL and VHL in 2018-19. He racked up eight points in 12 MHL games and five points in 14 VHL contests.
While it can be argued that Podkolzin's production was somewhat modest given his lofty draft status, Scott Powers of The Athletic felt the mere fact that he reached the KHL at his age was a significant accolade:
Scott Powers @ByScottPowers
@Evanhockey14 I wouldn't get too caught up with numbers at an early age in Russia. The fact he even played in the KHL at this age for one of the premier teams is something. Plus, his other numbers aren't bad in the VHL or MHL. From the video I've seen on him, he looks to be impressive.
Some of Podkolzin's best work to date has come in international competition against many of the best young players in the world.
In the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Podkolzin led the tournament with eight goals and 11 points. He also scored a hat trick in a win over the United States in the bronze medal game.
Podkolzin followed that up with three assists in seven games in the 2019 World Junior Championships, as Russia went on to win bronze again.
While Podkolzin's physical tools are undeniable, there is undoubtedly some risk with selecting him. Podkolzin has yet to show that he can be a truly dominant player unlike prospects such as Hughes and Kakko.
Also, the risk of players with KHL ties leaving the NHL to return to Russia if things don't go well is always present. Although top players like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin stay in the NHL and thrive, there is a high turnover rate when it comes to middling Russian players.
There are some major question marks attached to Podkolzin, but because of his high ceiling and massive potential, it is difficult to blame the Canucks for rolling the dice on him.