by Lisa McRitchie on 07/12/12 at 11:00 AM ET
Daniil Zharkov may have been drafted last in the third round, but he has the confidence of a first rounder. And not just any first rounder, Zharkov is friends with Nail Yakupov and is going to make it his goal in life to be better than his new rival. Oh, and he also has a great sense of humour. Even if he doesn’t make the team for another few years, he may be a new fan favourite.
“It’s not where I expected to be,” Zharkov began in his first Oilers’ media address, “But I’m really happy to be drafted by Edmonton. I’m the second Russian guy who was drafted this year [by the Oilers]. So I’m really happy. Really happy.”
“I was really worried about it. It was the last pick in the third round, but I’m really happy to be here.”
Not where he thought that he would be, meaning that he thought that any Russian’s stock might plummet at this year’s entry draft. “I thought that I would drop down. I think because I am Russian and all NHL teams are really scared that I would go back to the KHL. But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to try to make the team and if not I come back to Belleville.”
Note that he said Belleville, not the KHL.
Usually for any player outside of the 1st round, we tend not to be as familiar with the style of play, or type of player we are speaking with. But the players are always quick to explain their game. “I’m a physical player. I actually call myself not Russian, I’m more a Canadian player. And I think that I’m really physical like skate and shoot the puck.”
It shouldn’t have escaped your notice that Zharkov snuck in another mention of Russia and his plans to stay in Canada.
“I start calling myself Canadian. Russian hockey, it’s not my hockey anymore. I don’t want to play in Russia, I don’t want to do something like Russian guys, I just want to play like a Canadian guy.”
And being drafted by a Canadian team might mean that he gets to keep being a Canadian guy, just like his pal Nail Yakupov. “Yes, we’re friends, not really good friends, but I know him and I’ve spoken with him. He’s a good guy, a good guy.”
But being drafted by the same team and in the same year as Yakupov may have been the best thing that could have happened to Zharkov. “It’s has plusses and minuses. I think that it’s my goal to be better than Yakupov. I think that it makes me more angry and to work more harder than I would work if it wasn’t for Yakupov.”
As the laughter died down, we knew that the Oilers had picked someone special at least in terms of personality. For on ice performance, we would have to wait a little bit longer.
I couldn’t help but ask if Zharkov thought himself a funny guy and his response was once again comical. “Yeah kind of, not clown, but I’ve never had problems with my humour. I’m okay really, really funny I think.”
At the Oilers’ development camp, Zharkov had a chance to work on and learn some new skills as well as make some new friends. But this is something that the young Russian has become accustomed to. The reason Zharkov’s English is as good as it is, is because he left his home in St. St. Petersburg to come to North America and play the game.
And the scouting reports don’t sound so bad either. Sean Lafortune of the Prospects Blog had this to say:
“Zharkov is a well sized forward who shows high-end offensive abilities. He is a very strong skater, regardless of his size. He really maximizes his footwork, and really drives his legs to generate as much speed as possible. He also is effective at going wide on defenceman and driving the net on his off wing, bringing on a scoring chance or drawing a penalty. He has a rocket of a shot that can beat goaltenders clean within 10 feet of the net. He has one of the better ‘sticks’ in the draft. He is very strong at causing turnovers in the neutral zone by either putting his stick in a passing lane of stick checking an unsuspecting player. His other obvious asset is his puck skills. He showed strong hands in close, and has the ability to create offense by either reading the play and making a smart pass or skating through an opposition defender. He is not shy physically and willing to battle for loose pucks. He still is not as consistent as I would like to see him be, but the willingness is there.
I do love Zharkov’s long term upside, but at the same time there are some concerns. He seems to be a player who has a ton of skills, but at times he doesn’t know what to do with it. He will skate into defenders instead of passing off the puck when he had the opportunity. He often seems unaware of his surroundings, and needs to know where everyone on the ice is at all times. He often gets cause with his head down in all three zones, which is something that needs to change before he moves forward. Positionally, he needs to improve his three-zone play and know where he needs to be positionally in all three zones.”
The scouting report had another glowing review, and had Zharkov ranked to go late in the second round. “If you catch Zharkov on a good game, you might think you’re seeing one of the premier goal scorers in the 2012 NHL Draft. However, Zharkov’s enigmatic play leaves a lot to be desired as he struggled with consistency aside from an early season goal scoring streak. Zharkov is a perimeter player who doesn’t contribute much when he isn’t scoring. Scoring, however, is something that he is very capable of doing as Zharkov has an excellent shot and a slick repertoire of one-on-one moves. He’s a good skater and has promising size, but he doesn’t utilize these attributes enough. Zharkov can disappear against physical teams and will need to take his competitive drive to the next level if he wants to play at the NHL level.”
The hard part has only just begun for Zharkov, but with his personality and now personal quest to be better than Yakupov, Zharkov just may defy the odds.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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