Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ilya Zubov Autographed Card

Was last year's Game 7 Conference Finals finish a fluke, or are these Ottawa Senators the real deal? Oh, they're real - I even think they'll finish second in the Atlantic Division, ahead of the young Toronto Maple Leafs.

With the best defenseman in the game in Erik Karlsson and support from the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, Chris Wideman and rookies Thomas Chabot, Colin White and Andreas Englund, as well as three potential 30-goal scorers on the wing (Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan) and two proven 60-point 1A centers (Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard), plus a fine tandem in nets consisting of Craig Anderson and Mike Condon, Ottawa has one of the most well-balanced teams in the league.

There was a time when the Sens were looking at a young Russian center to one day replace Jason Spezza on the top line, a fourth-round (98th overall) pick at the 2005 draft called Ilya Zubov. Standing at 6' and just a little over 200 pounds, with tremendous speed and stick-handling skills, and the ability to make plays in tight spots, the Sens were convinced he had what it takes to become the next Ryan Getzlaf.

Unfortunately, he does not like playing in traffic, and the North American ice brings about more physical play than the European game, so he was never really able to make the transition right. The third time he was demoted to the AHL's Binghamton Senators to start a season, he requested a trade; the organization instead agreed to let him go back to the KHL, where he has been playing ever since.

He is currently in his third stint with Ufa Salavat Yulayev, producing at nearly a point-per-game pace (1 goal, 9 assists and 10 points in 12 games). He also played parts of five seasons with powerhouse CSKA Moscow (playing alongside the likes of Alexei Yashin and Alexander Radulov), a year and a half with Vladivostok Admiral, and two seasons with Omsk Avangard (with Vladimir Sobotka, Martin Erat, Nikita Nikitin and Alexander Perezhogin).

Here he is sporting the Sens' red (home) uniform on card #50 from Upper Deck's 2008-09 Rookie Class boxed set, which he signed in blue sharpie:
He's wearing #53, which is perfect for inclusion in my Sens Numbers Project.

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