Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2020 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here. Today we look at Vasili Ponomaryov.
The ninth overall pick in the CHL Import Draft, Shawinigan Cataractes centre Vasili Ponomaryov had a strong rookie season. He scored 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 57 games played before the season was cancelled. Ponmaryov also impressed on the international stage. He scored two goals and four assists for six points in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Ponmaryov helped the Russians to the gold medal. Overall he played 12 games with the Russian Under-18 team, scoring four goals and eight assists for 12 points. He also put up one goal and three assists for four points at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, bringing home another gold medal, Russia’s first-ever in that tournament.
In 2018-19, Ponmaryov played for Krylia Sovetov Moskva in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league. He scored nine goals and 20 assists and 29 points in 37 games. Ponomaryov also scored four goals and four assists for eight points in six games at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge, winning another gold medal. He was also named to the tournament all-star team. Overall in 23 Under-17 games, he scored nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points.
Vasili Ponomaryov Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born March 13th, 2002 — Zelenograd, Russia
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [182 cm / 82 kg]
Ponomaryov is a strong skater. He has a very good first step and strong acceleration. He is not a burner, but his top-end speed is still well above average. Ponomaryov’s edgework and agility are also very good. He can make quick changes in direction or move laterally to get past a defender both with and without the puck. However, the best part of his game is his strength and balance. Ponomaryov is very strong on the puck and he can fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He also can use this to win battles along the boards and in the front of the net. Ponomaryov is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice.
Ponomaryov is a natural sniper with an excellent wrist shot and a deceptively quick release. His shot is extremely accurate and he gets good power on it as well. He can create openings to get a shot off as well as create passing lanes to set up teammates. He can also score in tight to the net. Ponomaryov is willing to work for position in front of the net. He also can bang in rebounds, get deflections or one time a pass into the back of the net. Ponomaryov’s strong stride allows him to protect the puck down low, keeping possession and creating time and space for his linemates.
While Ponomaryov is best known for his goal-scoring, his passing skill and vision are underrated at this point. He sees the ice well and makes smart passes through tight areas in order to set up teammates for scoring chances. Ponomaryov can control the puck on the power play. He can work along the half boards and quarterback the play. Strong on his skates, he is also effective on the forecheck and in battling for loose pucks. One area where Ponomaryov could improve is with his creativity. He could work on his stickhandling and one-on-one moves working off the wall, or on the rush.
Ponomaryov is also a strong defensive player. He reads the play well and can anticipate what opponents will do, putting himself in a position to cut off shooting and passing lanes. Ponomaryov brings his strong work ethic to all three zones as well. He is willing to support the defence down low, controlling opponents in the cycle game. With his strength and balance, he is effective in doing so. Ponomaryov also brings effective backpressure against the transition game. Ponomaryov is effective on the penalty kill. His ability to transition a turnover into an offensive chance makes him a threat to score short-handed as well.
Projection and Comparison
Ponomaryov could become an effective middle-six centre, capable of providing some offence as well as playing a responsible two-way game. He has good strength already at the junior level but like most 18-year-olds needs to continue adding strength to his frame in order to continue to play this style at the next level. He should be back in the QMJHL next season as well as playing a big part in Russia’s World Junior team. Ponomaryov’s game is reminiscent of Henrik Zetterberg. However, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Vasili Ponomaryov that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Vasili Ponomaryov Main Photo:
PLYMOUTH, MI – DECEMBER 12: Vasili Ponomaryov #13 of the U17 Russian Nationals turns up ice with the puck against the Slovakia Nationals during day-2 of game one of the 2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament at USA Hockey Arena on December 12, 2018, in Plymouth, Michigan. Russia defeated Slovakia 6-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)