Strapping longtime National Hockey League forward Dainius Zubrus was born June 16, 1978 in Elektrenai, Lithuania. Coming to North America as a teenager, the young forward grew to 6-foot-4 and eventually filled out to 220 pounds. Due to an issue with the Quebec League team that held his CHL rights, Zubrus instead played Junior A hockey in Ontario in 1995-96 and he was drafted by the Flyers from the Pembroke Lumber Kings in the first round (15th overall) of the 1996 NHL Draft.
Zubrus impressed right away at training camp and was even dubbed "Baby Jagr" for his combination of size, strength and potential, albeit quite raw, to become an offensive force. Not originally expected to play right away for the Flyers, Zubrus instead bypassed both major junior hockey and the American Hockey League as he made an immediate jump to the National Hockey League at age 18.Flyers head coach Terry Murray played the young forward, then a right winger, on a line with responsible two-way players - veterans Joel Otto and Shjon Podein - for portions of the 1996-97 season. Periodically, Zubrus moved up to the top line, replacing Mikael Renberg as the third member of the Legion of Doom line with Eric Lindros and John LeClair.
As a rookie in 1996-97, Zubrus posted eight goals - including one in his NHL debut on opening night of the season and another in his third game - along with 13 assists for 21 points in 68 games. During the postseason, Zubrus notched five goals and nine points in 19 games as the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Final. Over the latter portion of the playoffs, with Renberg playing through a nagging foot/ankle issue, Zubrus often moved up to the top line.After Renberg was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the summer of 1997, Zubrus was installed as the third member of the top line by new head coach Wayne Cashman. The player was unable to build off his promising rookie season, however, and was eventually moved back down to more of a third-line role. Overall, Zubrus had eight goals, 25 assists, 33 points and a plus-29 rating at even strength in 69 games during the regular season. In the playoffs, he had one assist in five games as the Flyers lost in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to the Buffalo Sabres.
Zubrus struggled in 1998-99, producing just three goals and eight points for Roger Neilson's team in 63 games. On March 10, 1999, the Flyers packaged Zubrus with 1999 second-round (Matt Carkner) and a 2000 sixth-round (Scott Selig) pick to reacquire Mark Recchi from the Montreal Canadiens.
The first chapter of Zubrus' career ended with him having scored 19 goals, 43 assists and 62 points in 200 regular season games as a Flyer and five goals and 10 points in 24 playoff games. He would go on to play 20-plus seasons in the NHL.
Over time, the big forward evolved into a two-way center who excelled more on the defensive side of the puck than offensively. Zubrus surpassed the career 1,250 game played mark after he joined the San Jose Sharks in 2015-16.