Not every prospect pans out. That’s just the nature of drafting. You can scout a player as many times as you like, but it’s a bit of a crap shoot, as you’re watching 15, 16, and 17 year old kids play hockey, trying to project what kind of player they will be 4-5 years down the road. That being said, there is a skill to being an amateur scout in the NHL. The Detroit Red Wings seem to be able to find an endless supply of mid to late round picks that end up playing in their system in one way or another. This is something the Edmonton Oilers haven’t had much luck with in recent years. But as I was going through all the players in Edmonton’s system over the last few months, one player seemed to be missing from the conversation; Daniil Zharkov.
Zharkov was the player picked using the third round pick Edmonton acquired from the LA Kings in the Dustin Penner deal. Taken 91st overall in 2012, Zharkov looked to be a somewhat promising prospect, if not a bit of a project. He was coming off his first year with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL that saw him score 23-13-36 in 50 games. He would also be a key contributor to the Russian team at the U18 Championship that year, scoring 1 goal and 4 assists in the 6 games he played. Following the draft, Zharkov returned to the OHL, and followed his rookie season up by scoring an impressive 25-18-43 in 59 games. He also had a very impressive rookie camp with the Oilers that year, showing he was more than capable to match the speed and skill of 2012 1st overall pick, Nail Yakupov. Zharkov would go on to say his goal was to play in the NHL, and that he intended to be better than his fellow Russian Yakupov, as well as former number one picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That’s a bit of a stretch, as you consider Zharkov never got close to matching what any of those three did during their time in junior.
However, regardless of his claim to play in the NHL, Zharkov would sign with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod following his 2012-13 campaign with Belleville. He would score only 2 goals and 5 points in his first 49 games with the KHL club. The following year, Zharkov would be held pointless in 9 games with Torpedo, and was assigned to the developmental club, HK Sarov of the VHL, whose English translation is the Supreme Hockey League. During is 39 games with HK Sarov, Zharkov would only muster 9 points, 4 goals and 5 assists.
At this time Zharkov’s rights with the Oilers have expired. He was drafted during Steve Tambellini’s time with the team. Since then, we’ve seen two regime changes with Craig MacTavish, and now Peter Chiarelli. Neither seemed to have any interest on signing Zharkov to any kind of deal, which looks like the right call. Zharkov is still in Russia, and it appears no one in the KHL or the VHL has any interest in offering him a contract either. It’s a real shame that a young man, who looked like the total package, with a great combination of size, speed, and skill, seems to have played his last professional hockey game. It’s truly hard to peg down a reason as to why things never worked out for Zharkov. Maybe it was a lack of commitment on his part to become a better player, even though he boasted about how good he would have been after he was drafted. More than likely, and it may sound harsh, but Zharkov just isn’t a good hockey player. That’s relative of course. You need a certain level of skill to play junior and professional hockey. But he just doesn’t seem good enough to make a career out of it. It’s another draft pick that really highlights how poor the Oilers amateur scouts were, and their sheer inability to draft well outside of the 1st round.
Time will tell if Zharkov gets picked up anywhere. Perhaps injuries somewhere in the KHL will offer an opportunity to get some more playing time in. One thing is sure though, that his time with the Oilers, and most likely in North America, is over and done with.
I would like to give a special thanks to Locria (@LocksTheFox) or providing me with the info in regards to Zharkov’s current playing status, and Patrick C (@ChunkletsHockey) for helping search out any info on Zharkov over the last week. If you have any interest in what’s happening in the KHL, I highly recommend you give them both a follow on twitter, and check out their content.
**Apparently Mr.Zharkov is attending the Bakersfield Condors training camp. Hat Tip to Jack Gruninger**
Also of note, the Oilers made some cuts following the game is Saskatoon, including a handful of players that relate to the prospects that I profiled over the summer. The following players have all been assigned to Bakersfield of the AHL: