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Author: RussianProspects Team (RP Exlcusive)Date: 11/18/2004
2004 U18 World Cup: Russia's Top Line Recap (Denis Istomin, Egor Zharkov, Ilya Zubov)

2004 U18 Junior World Cup2004 U18 World Cup Player Evaluation:
Russia’s First Line: Istomin – Zubov – Zharkov

One word can describe what went wrong with Russia’s top line: injuries. Russia’s top line delivered a lot of scoring, but was unable to put together a consistent effort throughout the tournament. Half way through, Istomin was sidelined by injury and could not perform offensively when he was healthy. Zubov started the tournament strong, but suffered a wrist injury, but was able to finish the tournament, though his performance did decline. Unlike his two line mates, Zharkov started very badly, recovering from knee surgery he underwent earlier in the summer, but he improved towards the end. Overall, the unit showed glimpses of brilliance, and it will be interesting to see the three players together again in November when hopefully they are all healthy.

DENIS ISTOMIN – Left Wing (Grade C+)
STATISTICS: GP: 3 G: 0 A: 2 Pts.: 2 PIM: 6

Scouting Evaluation 1: Istomin’s 2004 U18 World Cup was cut short when he suffered a hand injury during practice a few games into the tournament. One of his fingers was cut with a skate, and he partially tore a tendon, which sidelined the young forward for two to three weeks following the tournament. Prior to the injury, Istomin enjoyed mixed success, but was unable to deliver a consistent effort every game. For a power forward known for his scoring ability with impressive wrist and slap shots, Istomin remained quiet and managed to only put two assists up on the scoring board. As one of our scouts puts it – "I expected goals from him, but he did not score any. Something was missing". This is a poor performance for the young player, especially considering the fact that his linemates Zubov and Zharkov lead the entire team in scoring. At the tournament, Istomin showed a lot of improvement in his ability to find the open man and read the plays. He has also grown to approximately 6‘2 and 190lb, and proved a more capable forechecker at the World Cup than at any previous tournament.
Scouting Evaluation 2: Istomin saw action in just three games and showed up as one of the better Russian forwards...did not show consistency throughout the three games...needs to play every game at the same level of intensity, which wasn't the case at this tournament...upgraded his forechecking skills...improved his playmaking ability, becoming more dangerous than a pure sniper...did not display the scoring touch he has been known for in the past...needs to shoot more, and improve the accuracy of his shots.
Scouting Evaluation 3:
It is difficult to evaluate Istomin's performance. A lot of goals were expected from him, but he failed to score a single one. Something was missing and he did not look himself. He suffered an injury after the third game - cut his finger on a skate during a practice.

ILYA ZUBOV – Center (Grade B-)
STATISTICS: GP: 5 G: 2 A: 2 Pts.: 4 PIM: 6

Scouting Evaluation 1:Ilya Zubov started the tournament off strong, but slowed down in the last few games, especially in the contest against Switzerland. He was able to showcase his solid skating and agility however. He also displayed very good puck handling, though the young center needs to learn not to over-handle the puck. Zubov has a great wrist shot, which brings his goal against Team USA to mind: he fired a laser beam of a wrist shot right under the crossbar. That tends to be one of his favorite shots – similarly to Alexei Kovalev; Zubov really likes to go high above the goalie with his shots. Defensively, the young forward was responsible and showed very good awareness. One of our scouts also added this about his ability on face-offs: " Average in the face-offs circle, and needs to further develop his face-off skills" . During the tournament, Zubov also suffered a bruised wrist, when an opposing player hit him hard with a stick on the hand. While the wrist was not broken, the bruised wrist may have hurt his effectiveness, especially his puck handling and shooting. Overall, Ilya Zubov was one of Russia’s top forwards, but finished the tournament a bit under our expectations. As a player who already had international experience on the ’86 squad last year and a center of Russia’s top line this year, Zubov needs to take on a more prominent position on the squad.
Scouting Evaluation 2:
Zubov centered Russia's top line the entire tournament...scored a great goal against the Americans with a precise wrist shot under the cross bar...did not play all that well against the Swiss...started the tournament very hot, but cooled off in the last couple of games.
Scouting Evaluation 3: Zubov started the tournament very well. However, he slowed down towards the end of the tournament and did not show the activeness and aggressiveness he displayed early on. In the end Zubov was hampered by a hand injury. He was hit on the hand, but fortunately nothing was broken and he is fine now.

EGOR ZHARKOV – Right Wing (Grade C+)
STATISTICS: GP: 5 G: 2 A: 2 Pts.: 4 PIM: 14

Scouting Evaluation 1: The U18 World Cup was Zharkov’s first tournament since undergoing knee surgery and it definitely showed. Previously known for his aggressiveness and physical play, as one of our scouts puts it, Zharkov " was almost invisible during the tournament...didn’t play physical hockey even though his game enables him to be a great power forward" . However, despite remaining quiet on the physical front, Zharkov improved his performance from bad to average/mediocre towards the end of the tournament and still managed to top the scoring charts with two goals and two assists. A positive impact of Zharkov’s lack of physical presence was the improvement of his playmaking ability. He also played responsibly in his own end of the ice. He showed better vision of the ice, and improved the timing and precision of his passes. Though Zharkov’s finishing skills also improved, he needs to further improve on his puck handling, which is average. Overall, the tournament should be considered a solid stepping stone in Zharkov’s recovery from knee surgery. Though the young forward clearly still needs to regain last winter’s shape physically and mentally, he showed no signs of any long term damage to his hockey career.
Scouting Evaluation 2:
Zharkov was a steady force during the whole tournament on the Russian first line...he was the best Russian two-way forward who showed up at both ends of the ice...the only knock against him was his lack of aggresivness and physical play during the tournament...improved his vision of the ice and timing of his passes since February's tournament...showed very good in-close finishing skills...needs to shoot more, especially using his very dangerous slap shot.
Scouting Evaluation 3: Zharkov started the tournament very weakly, but he seemed to recover from the slow start as the tournament went on. He didn't really play on his highest level of ability, he more like delivered a mediocre performance. He is clearly still recovering from surgery.

Related Player Profiles: . D.Istomin E.Zharkov I.Zubov
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