2005-06: Zharkov spent the majority of the season with CSKA 2, a step below the senior squad and scored 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points in 48 games. During the World Junior Championships in December, Zharkov suited up for four games and saw limited action with CSKA’s senior team. For a player of his age Zharkov fared quite well. He also played at the U18 Championships for Russia, though his ice time was quite restricted.
2006-07: Zharkov continued to skate for HC CSKA, but the skilled 88-born forward hit a bit of a sophomore slump and failed to take the next step, continuing to play a marginal role on the team. Part of the reason for his lack of success is the team’s high aspiration, since it was aiming for a playoff spot and ended up finishing the season in fifth place. Thought to be in consideration for a spot on the Russian team for the World Junior Tournament, Zharkov did not get chosen to represent his country. In 48 games with CSKA, Zharkov scored four goals and two assists and posted a -1 rating. He was held scoreless in 12 playoff games.
2007-08: Zharkov completed his second full season with CSKA Moscow, but again saw limited action and ice time with club, and as a result, had another pedestrian year. He suited up in 30 games, scoring five goals and two assists, marginally improving on his numbers from his the previous season, where he recorded six points. Zharkov constantly gave a good effort, gritting it out and showing off his fantastic speed when he got a chance to play, but things just didn’t work out for him. Another factor was that his team was really stacked at both wings with good players in their lineup such as Saprykin, Suglobov, Parshin, Kohn and others. As a result, he was scratched out for CSKA’s playoffs ride, stopped in the quarterfinals against Ak Bars Kazan. Those factors likely played a large role is his decision to cross the pond and come to North America after signing a contract in July with the Devils.
2008-09: Zharkov’s stock in the organization continued to rise as he made a seamless transition to the pro game with Lowell. Across the board, Zharkov’s numbers were quite impressive for a first-year pro, most notably his +23 rating, best on the club and tops among AHL rookies. In 69 games, he recorded 11 goals and 23 assists, good enough for fourth on the club.
Zharkov has a tremendous amount of overall skill and offensive talent. A top notch skater, he has an explosive first step and terrific top end speed. He is able to handle the puck well while in top gear, and shows great on ice vision and awareness while in the offensive zone. He uses his linemates well and is a solid playmaker who does not panic when the puck is on his stick.
Unlike most Russians, Zharkov has no problem driving to the net. He plays without fear and does not shy away from traffic and contact in the corners and in front of the net. Zharkov has a quick release on his wrist shot and while his slap shot is only average, his shot accuracy is well above average. He sometimes fails to convert on all his scoring opportunities created by teammates or by himself, but he is fairly adept at finishing around the net.
Zharkov shows great passion and willingness to compete when on the ice. He can be easily frustrated at times, but that just shows how high his competitive juices sometimes flow. Zharkov is especially aggressive when in pursuit of the puck, keeping his feet moving at all times and working hard to fight through checks. He more often than not returns to the defensive zone, but is still raw in terms of his overall defensive awareness.
Zharkov is quickly transforming into one of the best two-way prospects in the system. His ceiling and long-range potential may not be as high as some of the more talented prospects the Devils currently have, but that does not mean he doesn't have a future in New Jersey. In fact, that is far from the case. Should he put together another season this year like he had last year in Lowell, there's a good chance he'll be battling for a spot in New Jersey by 2010-11.