2016-17 Team: Green Bay Gamblers (#33)
Date of Birth: July 22, 1999
Place of Birth: Kaliningrad, Russia
Ht.: 6’3” Wt.: 181 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: Top prospect eligible for 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
- NHL Central Scouting: 5 (NA Goalies, Mid-term)
- NHL Central Scouting: 9 (NA Goalies, Final)
- Craig Button: 53 (March)
- Bob McKenzie: 62 (Mid-season)
- Jeff Marek: Top Goalies (October)
- ISS: Unranked (May)
At 6’3″ tall and athletic, Maxim Zhukov has the ability to move with ease from post-to-post. Confident in his approach, Zhukov can take over games and “steal” wins when needed.
One of the rare Russian goalies to leave his native land to compete in the USHL, Zhukov went 19-8-1-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .913 save percentage during his rookie season in 2016-17. He ranked first in wins among first-year netminders. An upright butterfly-style goalie, Zhukov utilizes a wide stance to close off openings. His agility allows him to drop into his butterfly and quickly rise to his skates. His efficient glove hand engulfs rising shots.
— GDI USA (@GDIUSAgoalie) April 28, 2017
Zhukov rarely skates too far from the crease area, but when called upon, he can deftly stick-handle the puck away from pressure. He generally plays best when he stays busy. That was evidenced last season when he turned aside at least 25 shots in 10 games.
Proving to be tough enough to make a stand when engaged in scrums in front of the net, Zhukov’s large frame and skating ability allow him to take aggressive angles on shooters. He often sets up at the top of the crease to cut down on potential quality scoring chances.
Over the next few seasons, NHL scouts would like to see Zhukov concentrate on improving his on-ice focus and locating pucks in traffic. He also needs work on corralling rebounds and limiting second-chance opportunities.
NHL Draft Projection
Drafting young netminders is generally regarded as a gamble by NHL executives. But when one comes around that is big and mobile and projects as a possible future No. 1, like Zhukov, the prospect’s rights won’t go unclaimed for long. A top-10 North American prospect, Zhukov is projected to be picked as high as the second round and as late as the fifth.
“(Zhukov) uses his positioning very well. He expects if he’s in the right position, pucks are going to hit him. That’s where his strength is at, understanding angles and using his size to his advantage.” – Pat Mikesch, Green Bay Gamblers coach
- Glove hand
- Quick on skates
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Maintaining focus
- Controlling rebounds
NHL executives believe Zhukov possesses the right size and temperament to develop into a top-flight goalie. He is confident in his natural abilities and has unique agility for someone his size. If he is able to harness his focus and keep his eyes on the puck, Zhukov and his lightning-quick glove hand could snare a starting role in the NHL.
Risk – 2/5, Reward 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Goaltending – 8/10
Maxim Zhukov was named to the 2016-17 USHL All-Rookie Second Team. By registering the tournament’s highest save percentage (.926) and being named the event’s top goalie, Zhukov helped lead Team Russia to a bronze medal at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in April, the program’s first medal since 2011. In 2015-16, he was selected to the U17 WHC All-Star Team.
Jeff Hawkins is a career sportswriter who has collected eight industry awards, including two Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) honors. Hawkins has served as a beat writer for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and UHL’s Adirondack IceHawks. A husband and father, Hawkins enjoys live music, hiking, New York-style pizza with Dr. Pepper, and writing with his golden Labrador retriever “mutt” cuddled around his feet.