Move over Austin Powers, the Ottawa Senators have their own International Man of Mystery. Who really is Artem Zub?
We’ve heard from the 25-year old Russian only once since he signed with the club, May 1, and that was one week prior to the Senators’ season opener. Zub appeared on a media Zoom call with fellow Russian Evgenii Dadonov acting as his interpreter.
On the call, the defenseman told fullpresshockey.com the most noticeable difference between playing in the KHL and Senators’ training camp was adjusting to the speed of the North American game.
What we do know is Zub was heavily pursued by several NHL clubs after coming off a breakthrough campaign with SKA St. Petersburg. Not known for his offense, the right-shot d-man scored 13 goals, adding nine assists in 57 games. Prior to last season, two goals, nine points were his KHL career highs over the previous four full seasons.
Zub also led all KHL players with a plus-35 rating.
The six-foot-two, 198-pound rearguard has been a winner wherever he’s played. Zub won a KHL Gagarin Cup championship in 2017. Earned 2018 Olympic Gold and two bronze medals with Russia at the World Championships.
Upon his signing, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion said in a team release, “We’re pleased that Artem has elected to pursue an NHL career in Ottawa. Artem is a smart defensive defenseman who moves the puck well and who utilizes his strength and mobility to make plays. His extensive international resume will help him transition to a North American style of play, but his key attribute his sound ability to defend.”
Zub inked his deal with the Senators as he and his agent Dan Milstein thought it was the best opportunity to receive regular playing time.
it didn’t turn out this way at first. Dorion added Josh Brown and Erik Gudbranson through trade to the right side of the Senators’ blue line.
Zub opened the season on the taxi squad. A European Assignment Clause in his contract kept him from being outrighted to Belleville.
With Senators struggling, head coach D.J. Smith turned to the Khabarovsk, Russia resident last Sunday, adding Zub to the lineup. Zub chipped in offensively, earning an assist in his first NHL game, then followed up another helper in his second.
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) February 1, 2021
Zub is averaging 14:43 time-on-ice over his four games played, with a high of 17:55 in the Senators’ 3-2 win over the Canadiens Thursday. His 53.9 even-strength Corsi is tops among the team’s defenseman. Though it’s a small sample size, the addition of Zub to the club’s lineup is readily apparent.
One NHL executive noted during the off-season, Zub “plays a simple puck game in using his outlets and transition…The Senators get a free player.”
Inked to a one-year deal that pays him a $925,000 salary with the potential to earn a maximum $850,000 Type A performance bonus, all pro-rated in a 56-game season, Zub could be in for a “bigger payday” in the 2021-22 campaign said the executive.
The blue-liner will be a restricted free agent at this season’s conclusion.
There’s no doubt Zub will remain in the Senators’ lineup for the foreseeable future.
“He skates a lot better than anyone thought, maybe coming over. It’s tough when you watch on tape for us anyways, as a coaching staff,” noted Senators’ coach D.J. Smith.
“Being that he played in the KHL last year, and all I got to see was tape. And then all you get to see is practice against each other. There’s such thing as gamers, and some guys are good practice players. Then the game comes and they’re just ok. And then there’s other guys – he’s not flashy – to me he’s a gamer. When the game is on, he’s so much more competitive, and he doesn’t give you an inch out there.”