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.
If you were hoping to see Nikolay Zherdev land a job with your favorite team to give them an offensive boost, your hopes are about to be ruined.
According to Yahoo’s Dmitry Chesnokov, Zherdev is headed back to the KHL. Zherdev will be signing a deal with his former team in Russia, Atlant Mytishchi, where he’ll team up with another big NHL name in Alex Kovalev. Kovalev signed with Atlant last week after being unable to find work in the NHL for next season.
Zherdev had one of the more up and down seasons with Philadelphia last season as he was on a constant loop going in and out of coach Peter Laviolette’s dog house. When he played, he was a good offensive producer for the Flyers scoring 15 goals and six assists in 56 games while averaging just 12:51 per game in ice time. Despite his good play on occasion, his effort level didn’t meet Laviolette’s needs consistently enough and the Flyers did attempt to waive him last year but found no takers.
At 26 years-old, Zherdev is taking his second leave of absence from the NHL to play in Russia. While we’ve seen him and others leave the NHL for the KHL and come back, we haven’t seen anyone do it twice. Zherdev is young enough and has enough talent to play in the NHL, but you have to wonder if NHL GMs and coaches have perhaps had their fill of Zherdev.
It’d be a shame if this is it for him as an NHL player as he does have offensive skill set that makes him a unique player to have in that role. With the way the NHL stresses quality play both offensively and defensively, perhaps Zherdev will have to strengthen his two-way play to earn a return trip back to North America.
There were plenty of rumors that Alexei Kovalev was headed to the KHL this summer. Now, we have official word that former Penguins’ skilled winger is headed to Atlant Mytishchi in Moscow. The newly signed deal will send Kovalev to his native Russia for the next two seasons and very likely could spell the end of his North American career. Some would say a year or two too late.
Kovalev was acquired by the Penguins midseason in hopes that he would inject some offense into a team that was replacing the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. In 20 games down the stretch, Kovalev only scored a pair of goals and five assists as he failed to meet short-term expectations in the Steel City. Atlant’s General Director talked about the move to bring Kovalev to Moscow (via Google Translate):
“We have long fought for Kovalev and we’re very glad that we could still come to terms with such a talented striker. We hope that Alex can reveal a wealth of potential in the Kontinental Hockey League, and thereby help to Atlant to fight for the highest places in the next championships.”
If this is truly the end of the NHL line for Kovalev, he’s had a great career in North America. Taking a brief look back, the insanely talented Russian has put up 428 goals and 596 assists in 1,302 regular season games. After bouncing between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins a few times, he ended up in Montreal for parts of five seasons, Ottawa for parts of two, and finally back to Pittsburgh for his last 20 games. The 38-year-old was drafted 15th overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers and broke into the league during the 1992-93 season. Over the course of his career, he scored 20+ goals in twelve separate seasons including a 44 goal, 95 point campaign in 2000-01. For a man known for his inconsistency, he consistently put up goals just about everywhere he went.
It was no secret that the Penguins weren’t interested in bringing Kovalev back for the 2011-12 season. He was a disappointment for the Ottawa Senators for the majority of his two years in town and continued the trend when he reached Pittsburgh. He’s been on the free agent market since July 1st but there hasn’t been much interest in North America—and if there was, they weren’t willing to spend the same amount of money that the KHL offering.
He’ll be remembered as one of the most skilled players over the course of his career. Hockey fans would be hard pressed to come up with too many players who had more pure talent than Kovalev. Hopefully he’ll be able to regain the fire with Atlant Mytishchi.