Daniil Zharkov, the forgotten russian


At 6ft. 4 inches and 220 pounds, 20 year old Daniil Zharkov should be a top prospect in the Oilers organization. Instead, he has been buried in the AHL’s russian equivalent, the Supreme Hockey League (SHL or VHL) with HC Sarov. HC Sarov is the filial of the KHL’s Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. Zharkov signed a contract with torpedo back in early 2013 after a good showing at the World Juniors. Things did not go well as his playtime was limited and he ended up demoted to the previously mentioned SHL. He was drafted by the Oilers in the third round on 2012 and famously stated that he was going to be better than all 3 first overall picks Edmonton had accumulated. So what went wrong?

Zharkov came to North America at age 16 and played one season in the USHL and 2 for the Belleville bulls of the OHL. His scouting reports cited speed and ability along with his big size, making him a desirable prospect for the Oilers who have been looking since forever for a power forward. After the 2012 draft, he attended the Oilers development camp at millenium place in sherwood park and showed he was more than capable to keep up with the rest of the prospects including Yakupov. In interviews Zharkov mentioned how he was not interested in going back to Russia and that his goal was the NHL. There was no rookie camp that year thanks to the lockout. Daniil would show up in Edmonton once more during the 2013 development camp. He then was missing form the rookie tournament in Pentincton B.C. having probably bolted already to Russia.

In Russia he had limited ice time, playing an average of 6:44 through 49 games and scoring only 5 points. Torpedo then sent him down to Sarov where his ice time improved to 15:10 in 36 games but he only scored 2 points. This season things haven’t been much better, as he played only 6 games with no points and average TOI of 4:08. He was however sent down once again to the SHL and in 8 games he has 2 points with an average TOI of 14:33. Perhaps a longer season with more ice time down there will be better for Zharkov.

For a player who came all the way from Russia at age 16, got drafted and declared his love to play in NA, the post draft story of Daniil Zharkov is a rather strange chain of events. It is worth remembering that he was drafted during Tambellini’s reign, and bolted to Russia during MacTavish’s rookie GM year. The only option in NA for Zharkov was to go back to Junior, since his age prevented him from going to any pro league except the NHL, and he was not going to make that team. In that sense it is understandable for a guy his size not wanting to go back to play with kids, an argument in vogue this days around Oil Country when talking about Leon Draisaitl and where he should be playing.

Now, my recollection is that Torpedo’s contract was for 2 years, if that is the case, then I can see why Zharkov remained in the motherland for this season. Because he signed with the KHL, the Oilers retained his rights for one more year. If there was no rift between player and organization, I would think Zharkov will be here next season. There are a lot of good reasons for this and non obvious bad ones:

  • He is only 20 years old. If he comes to NA next year he could be playing his first NHL game as soon as next season as a call up, depending on where his game is at.
  • Next year the team is flushing several players from the minors. There will be room for Zharkov both in the roster and the cap.
  • The Oilers depth at wing down the farm is brutal. Outside of Tyler Pitlick there isn’t anyone really with NHL potential on the wings as of right now. Zharkov would bring a lot of size and skill.
  • Go with the devil you know. Zharkov is already a sort of known quantity, no need to look elsewhere for an AHL winger if you have someone like him waiting in the queue.

If  Zharkov is serious about playing in the NHL and the Oilers didn’t have a falling out with him, I see no reason why he wouldn’t show up at training camp next season. Imagine a lineup 3 years down the road that includes Khaira, Yakimov, Zharkov and Draisaitl up front along with the H2E line and Yak. Now that would be a scary lineup to play against.