Moscow native Anton Zlobin is one of 31 players attending selection camp to try out for a spot on the Russian team in the upcoming 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships, which kick off in just under two weeks in Ufa, Russia.
Zlobin is one of four players from the QMJHL attending the selection camp, joining his Val-d’Or teammate Artem Sergeev as well as Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec) and Nikita Kucherov (Rouyn-Noranda).
If he makes the final cut when camp ends on December 20, it’ll be the Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick’s first run at the IIHF World Junior Championships. He previously represented Russia in the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, when Russia took fourth place.
Zlobin ended the tournament tied for third place in points overall, behind Rocco Grimaldi (USA, 14 pts/6 gp) and fellow Russian Alexander Khokhlachev (13 pts/6 gp). Zlobin tied with Grigorenko, tallying two goals and eight assists – including two shorthanded goals – in six games.
After an outstanding season in 2009-10 with Spartak in Russia Jr. in which Zlobin scored 50 goals and 42 assists for 92 points in 51 games, Zlobin was selected 15th overall in the 2010 CHL Import Draft by the Shawinigan Cataractes.
The right winger made his North American debut on September 10, 2010, scoring an assist on a goal by Tommy Tremblay en route to a 5-4 Shawinigan victory. He went on to score his first QMJHL goal just under a month later, an overtime game-winner against Guillaume Nadeau of Drummondville.
His rookie season ended with Zlobin scoring 45 points (23-22) in 59 games, placing him sixth in the league for rookie point scoring. He’d explode offensively in his sophomore season, scoring 40 goals and 36 assists in 66 games and accruing a team-high plus-42. He also lead the Cataractes in goals and points, narrowly missing the assists lead behind Michael Chaput.
He added three goals and seven assists in 11 playoff games with Shawinigan, scoring twice – including the game-winning overtime goal – in the game in which Shawinigan defeated London for the Memorial Cup. Zlobin was named first star of the game as the Cataractes became the first team in CHL history to eliminate three champions (of the WHL, OHL and QMJHL) en route to a Cup win.
Despite scoring the winning goal to give Shawinigan the championship, he was traded in the offseason to the Val-d’Or Foreurs, in exchange for picks.
The offseason also saw Zlobin get drafted by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, who selected him with the 173rd pick after he was ranked 137th by the NHL’s Central Scouting.
Zlobin made his regular season debut with Val-d’Or on September 21, notching an assist and taking a shootout attempt as the Foreurs defeated Victoriaville by a score of 4-3.
He’s scored at least a point in 24 of 30 games so far this season and has had 12 multi-point games, including a combination of three points in his last two games, against Rouyn-Noranda and Blainville-Boisbriand.
Zlobin has 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games this season; he’s tied for fourth in goals and is second in assists on the Val-d’Or team.
He’ll now participate in Russia’s camp, which began December 7 and runs through December 20 before the IIHF World Junior Championships kick off on December 26. The Russian team has medaled four of the past five years, including a gold-medal stunner over Canada in 2011 in Buffalo, and the hometown factor may prove to be significant in this year’s tournament.
This is Russia’s first time hosting the tournament since 2001, when the Czech Republic won gold and Russia did not win a medal. Since then, Russia has won three gold, four silver and two bronze medals. The lone years in which the national team failed to medal since 2001 were the 2004 and 2010 tournaments.
The 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships begin with four games on December 26, with Russia’s first match of the tournament coming against Slovakia in the final game of the day (9 a.m. EST).