If reports are to be believed, Jaromir Jagr might not be the only former NHLer coming back to North America from the KHL this season. Genadi Boguslavski of Sovetsky Sport out of Russia reports that former Sharks first round pick in 1996 defenseman Andrei Zyuzin is close to returning to the NHL. Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov follows that report up saying that Zyuzin has two offers from NHL teams to return to the NHL after a three season absence from the league.
Zyuzin was the second overall pick in 1996 by the Sharks, a draft year that saw Ottawa take Chris Phillips first overall. A guy named Zdeno Chara happened to get drafted by the Islanders 53rd overall that year while guys like Willie Mitchell (199th), Tomas Kaberle (204th), and Sami Salo (239th) were taken later on. Hey, you win some and you lose some in the draft.
Zyuzin’s NHL career saw him play for ten seasons with six different teams totaling up 38 goals and 82 assists in 496 games and 446 penalty minutes. At 6’1″ 208 pounds, Zyuzin’s game was a physical one and he never lived up to the second overall selection hype that would demand. In the KHL he played for both SKA St. Petersburg and Atlant Mytishchi. There he put up numbers similar to those he had in the NHL with his best season coming two years ago with SKA scoring five goals and adding 15 assists in 53 games.
As for who might be interested in bringing Zyuzin back to North America, your guess is as good as ours. While there are some teams in need of defensive depth and help (Islanders? Blue Jackets? Wild?) finding a way to fit in a guy that was an awkward fit in the NHL when he left after the 2008 season might prove to be difficult. With Zyuzin’s sort of game he found it tough to adjust to the way the NHL changed after the lockout. Perhaps he’s found ways to change while away in Russia, but if the reports of his eventual return to the NHL are true, it’ll be curious to see how it pans out for him.