Friday, July 17, 2009

Outlook: Ilya Zubov

This is an intriguing one. Zubov has put in two years in the AHL, showing steady improvement. He got 10 games with the big club last year, and he's a known quantity for the coach of the big team, which should provide him some encouragement to push for the next level.

The downside of the current situation is that Zubov trailed off at the end of the season in Bingo, and didn't exactly distinguish himself during his 10 games in Ottawa. He wasn't bad, he was just unnoticeable, which is bad for a forward looking to eventually break into the Top 6.

The final two pros/cons are more recent developments. Zubov elected to go back to Russia for the summer, which has lead to speculation that he will not embrace an aggressive conditioning program like the one he participated in during the summer of 08 in Ottawa. More recently, Ottawa signed Alex Kovalev. It is hard to say exactly what impact having a respected elder Russian forward on the team will have, but it certainly should help dispel any lingering feeling that the team doesn't like Russians.

Finally, I've heard speculation that Zubov might just stay in Russia and sign with a KHL team, but he signed a 3-year ELC with Ottawa in 2007 and owes the team one more year. They could loan him to the KHL, but I don't think Zubov can play there without the Senators permission. They may have made private assurances about whether and when they might provide that permission, and we wouldn't know until it happens, but if the team thinks he's close (and they've said as much) then I doubt they'd release him to play in the KHL unless they either retain the right to bring him back next year (an out in his KHL contract) or they're giving up on him (unlikely).

Given the uncertainty about where he's going to play, and his conditioning level and attitude, I'm not willing to hazard a guess as to what his production might look like. I will say that this year is crucial in his ability to establish himself as a player, regardless of where he plays. He either needs to make the AHL look like he's outgrown it, establish himself in the NHL, or show he's a very good player in a good skilled pro league like the KHL.


  1. I wouldn't blame him for going back to the KHL. He has enough skill to compete in that league.

    If the Sens didn't have such a glut of forwards under NHL contracts, I'd give him a chance of making it with the big club. He has more offensive flair than Regin or Bass, but their utility as checking forwards gives them the edge.

    It looks like a long hill to climb, and I predict he rides out the year in the AHL and moves back home.

  2. I agree with Indrew that the most likely continuation of his career in spending a year in the A. But I feel he'll be first on the list to be recalled when there's any kind of room.

    Alternatively, it may come to pass that one (maybe two) forwards currently on the roster will be dealt prior to the beginning of camp, creating an opportunity for a prospect to impress and start the year with Ottawa. If so, I can see Zubov (or maybe Zach Smith) as that prospect.