SHAWINIGAN, Que. -- Anton Zlobin came to Canada from his native Russia last year in order to improve the chances of realizing his dream of being drafted by an NHL team.
When that dream failed to become a reality last June, Zlobin took it as a challenge. And on Sunday night, he might very well have given himself a chance to have that dream come true next month.
2012 NHL DRAFT
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Zlobin scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory for his Shawinigan Cataractes against London in the final of the MasterCard Memorial Cup, capping a tremendous tournament for a player who hopes he’s caught the attention of NHL scouts.
"I think I proved a lot this year," Zlobin said. "I began training in July, I worked hard with my strength coach. It’s a good feeling right now."
While Zlobin admits he didn’t exactly grow up dreaming of the Memorial Cup, he was very proud that he and teammate Kirill Kabanov are now among the very few Russians ever to have won the trophy.
"I know that four Russians before us won the Memorial Cup," he said. "So I’m so happy to be one of the only Russians to win it in all of history."
Not only did Zlobin score the overtime winner, he scored Shawinigan’s first goal as well by deflecting a Kabanov shot past London Knights goalie Michael Houser early in the second period. They were his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament.
"It’s a little revenge for him," Cataractes coach Eric Veilleux said. "I thought he was really consistent this year and played some good hockey. He played great the whole tournament."
Veilleux played a big part in Zlobin getting the overtime winner -- he practically had to push him out on the ice for the shift in which he ultimately scored the winning goal.
"It’s funny, because that last shift when he scored, he didn’t want to get on the ice," Veilleux said. "He was telling me how tired he was. I told him to just go. He said, ‘I’ll go, but if we lose the faceoff and the puck comes out, can I come to the bench? I just said, ‘I don’t care what you do after the faceoff, just go.’ And he went."
And he scored, converting a play where Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Michael Chaput earned the assists. Zlobin hopes he, too, will one day have an NHL team’s name associated with his -- he's No. 137 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of North American skaters for this year's NHL Draft.
"He’s an unbelievable guy and a great competitor," defenseman Brandon Gormley said. "He’s kind of been snake-bitten a bit this year, but it was an unbelievable tournament for him. You want to be that player who steps up in the big games. Hopefully some scouts were keeping an eye on him because he’s a hell of a player."