Prospect Report: Vasily Ponomaryov
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Vasily Ponomaryov, the Shawinigan Cataractes’ 9th overall pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft, is one of the most polished forwards in this year’s draft. Ponomaryov was dynamite last year in the MHL, and his game has transitioned quite well to North America. He’s sitting comfortably at a point per game pace, with 14 goals and 16 assists through his first 30 QMJHL games. Ponomaryov’s strengths are in his offensive abilities, and there’s no doubt about that, but he’s very effective defensively as well. He’s a weapon on the forecheck, using his quick feet to close gaps and his top notch hand-eye coordination to knock pucks out of the air. I’ve got two great examples of these here:
Ponomaryov doesn’t go at the puck carrier, he waits and baits him into making the obvious pass. Quickly, Ponomaryov extends and knocks the pass down, then makes a behind the back pass out to the front of the net for a primary assist.
Shawinigan loses the face-off, but that white blur you see is Ponomaryov accelerating to full speed. He’s able to easily pick the defenseman’s pocket and send a backdoor feed for another primary assist. I feel like I had to praise his defensive game early, because it can really get drowned out by his offensive game, the main subject of this report.
Ponomaryov is a wizard on offense. He makes some of the most creative plays of any draft eligible player, with consistency. His skating is extremely good, and his top speed is breakaway level. Ponomaryov’s got some really quick feet, and he’s fantastic on his edges. He can dodge and weave through traffic with ease, and can make very tight turns. This makes him especially difficult to deal with in the offensive zone. On top of that, his puck handling skills are elite. He’s so confident pulling the puck between his legs, and dangling through traffic. He’s always looking at the “tripod” and figuring out where the weakest spots are. His stick handling style doesn’t fall into the Kane/Barzal/Marner category, but more in line with Datsyuk. Not incredibly flashy, but always extremely effective. After all, Datsyuk was one of the top guys for him to watch as a kid. Ponomaryov’s primary goal on offense is to create, and boy is he good at it. Here are some of my favorite plays of his from this season:
I’m sure everyone’s seen this one by now, and there’s not much to say about it. The backdoor pass isn’t even my favorite part about this highlight. When Ponomaryov enters the zone, he keeps making shifty little strides with his feet. This makes the defenseman commit to him, even though Ponomaryov isn’t in a very threatening position.
He’s so calm under pressure, and is able to draw in two defenders to open up more space for the point man. He seems unfazed by the sticks prodding at the puck.
He gets the puck, doesn’t even look, and threads a perfect pass for the primary assist. High end stuff.
Here, Vasily makes a half shooting motion before sending a bullet pass perfectly onto the tape. This is much, much harder than it looks.
He fiddles with the puck along the half wall, send a nice bank pass up the the point, and then camps out in the middle. When the pass comes to him and it’s not very good, Ponomaryov quickly kicks it to himself and makes another pass. If Someone does that without Ponomaryov level quickness, that’s an easy steal.
Ponomaryov can shoot too. He’s got a pretty wicked wrister, and a plethora of finishing skills. Ponomaryov might be one of the top net-front finishers in the draft class. He’s got a whole bucket full of different moves that he likes to use to beat the goalie one on one. But first, I’ll talk about his wrist shot. Ponomaryov’s wrister is super accurate, and he can get it off fairly quickly. His stick looks like it has a pretty low flex, so sometimes that slingshot motion can add an extra split second to the release.
Ponomaryov turns, and uses the swing of his hips to help propel his spot. The puck goes top corner and the goalie doesn’t have a chance.
Here’s his OT winner from the WJAC. That’s a pretty serious rifle from a long way’s out.
These are the minority of Ponomaryov’s goals, with the majority looking a little more like this:
He LOVES this move, and goes for it probably four or five times a game. It works out here and he’s able to roof the puck.
He attacks the side of the net, before curling around and staying with his rebound. Just look at the strength of his skating to be able to fight off that first check while not losing any speed.
His one-timer is quick, not too heavy but certainly not bad. He’s able to get it off in tight areas like this, so it’s not an issue.
He’s very dangerous behind the net because of his quick feet. He can close in on wrap arounds much faster than most players.
And of course, I had to throw in his Forsberg finish from earlier this season.
In my opinion, he brings a little more to the table than teammate Mavrik Bourque. Bourque's goal scoring is invaluable, but Ponomaryov has a much higher motor and is much more creative. Overall, Ponomaryov is a super effective player, and a versatile forward. He can play both center and wing, and is a surefire first round talent.