After weeks of speculation (it takes a while for the NHL to certify approve contracts of Russian player) the Thrashers have officially signed Russian defenseman Andrey Zubarev to an entry-level contract, bolstering the blueline and adding yet another player who could potentially fight for a roster spot when training camp opens in less than a month. The 6-1, 205 lb native of Ufa, Russia was drafted in the sixth round (187th overall) by the Thrashers in 2005 and they have held his rights ever since. The 23-year-old defensively minded dman scored seven goals and 16 points in the low-scoring KHL last season while playing for Mytishchi Atlant where he was teammates with Nik Zherdev, Jan Bulis, and Oleg Kvasha. Zubarev prefers the more physical style of hockey played in North America and is excited to be joining the Thrashers.
How excited is he? Excited enough to come to Atlanta to work out with the team before the deal was even officially approved by the NHL. Zubarev has been in town since last Monday, working out in Duluth and getting to know the other players who have arrived. Here is what he had to say earlier this week:
On coming to Atlanta:
“I’m so excited to be here and so happy. It’s the NHL. It’s very goodhockey.”
On why he made the decision to leave Russia and the KHL to come to North America:
“It’s my dream. I always wanted to play in the NHL so it was not a hard decision. I wanted to come here two years ago but I had contract in Russia. Now that contract is finished so I am here finally. I’m excited to be here.”
On who he knows on the team:
“I know Alex Burmistrov from Russia, Ondrej Pavelec from playing against him on the national team under-20, and I know about Nik Antropov, but I don’t know him.”
On his trip from Russia to Atlanta:
“We arrived Monday. We flew 15 hours from Kazan where we were, to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Atlanta. It’s tough. We slept only six hours and then got up at 4:30 am on our first day in the US. Then I went to the gym.”
On what the next step is now that he has signed:
“Now I am excited to get ready for camp and meet my teammates. I will work with them in the gym and on the ice. I want to be ready to show the coaches my best game so they can make a good decision.
On whether he would play in the AHL or go back to Russia if he doesn’t make the Thrashers roster out of camp:
“It is all up to the coaches. It is their decision. If they say go the AHL I will go, but my dream is to play in the NHL. I will do what they say so I can play in the NHL.”
Here is a video interview with Andrey (please forgive the misspelling of his first name in the video):