Evgeni Malkin has seen his fair share of wingers throughout his NHL career.
Beau Bennett, Zach Boychuk, Matt Cooke, Ruslan Fedotenko, Jarome Iginla and Petr Sykora to name a few.
Although Pittsburgh has solidified one winger for his line — James Neal — the team could probably benefit from Malkin having another steady linemate, like when he won the Hart Trophy with Chris Kunitz on the left side.
Considering Sidney Crosby has Pascal Dupuis and Kunitz cemented in as his wingmen, and because Pittsburgh would rather have Bennett play his natural right side on the third-line, they’re going to have to find Malkin a winger elsewhere.
Jussi Jokinen is a possible choice — and an obvious one — but he won’t be with the team for long due to his age and his contract.
I got one for you — Anton Zlobin.
Zlobin, 20, was drafted in the sixth-round (173rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Pens, and has all the tools you need to play alongside a dynamic scorer like Malkin.
Signing a three-year entry-level contract this past April, Zlobin was rewarded with the deal due to his outstanding play with the Val d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) last season.
Leading his entire team in points, the speedy Russian finished the year off with 91 points (29G, 62A) in 61 games — which also placed him ninth in the league with that total.
His 62 assists tied him for fourth in the QMJHL, and he was just two helpers away from the third overall pick in this past years draft, Jonathan Drouin (64).
Zlobin didn’t even play the max amount of games (68) and he still topped all Foreurs scorers — not to mention he could’ve potentially potted 100 points, which would’ve propelled him into the top-5 amongst scorers in the QMJHL.
Standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 198-pounds, Zlobin doesn’t have the biggest of frames — but he’s got the goods to create quality chemistry with Malkin on the second-line.
Zlobin is predominantly a left winger and Neal is currently slotted in at that position; however, Neal was just recently switched to the left side, but he was drafted as a right winger.
While the Pens might not want to keep shifting Neal back-and-forth between left and right wing, it’s probably a good idea to keep Zlobin at the left side because of his inexperience and right-handed shot.
A shifty, skillful-minded biscuit scorer — the Moscow, Russia native was a steal for Pittsburgh and should be inserted into the starting lineup immediately.
The sooner Zlobin gets acclimated with the NHL game, the faster he’s going to grow comfortable with the Pens system.
He was recently invited to Pittsburgh’s development camp this past July, but due to a shoulder injury, he was unable to participate in the festivities — so that’s probably why the Pens won’t use him at the NHL level this year.
Not showing up to the camp won’t give him a good look at joining the squad, but if his ailment turns out to be minor, his performance in the QMJHL last season should be more than enough reason to promote him.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins