Who is this guy?
What are they saying about him?
The main thing that seems to come up when Zlobin is mentioned is that he is a sniper. He has excellent hands and has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net. One of his old draft profiles said of him "Superb hands, shot and offensive instincts. A human highlight reel, and when he gets it revved up with some open ice to work with, watch out." He is an absolute force in the offensive zone and has been favorably compared to Alexander Semin by a number of sources.
There have been some issues with his playmaking ability, as for a while he had been a fairly one dimensional goal scorer. But that is something he already worked on last season and improved considerably. Like, well, pretty much all Russian offensive powerhouses, he has also been said to be a bit lacking on the defensive side of the ice and can stand to improve a bit of the play in his own zone. Of course his size is also a concern for some, so he could look to improve his strength if he plans to contribute to the NHL in the future.
Where has he been?
Zlobin moved to North America from Russia and spent the past 3 season playing in the QMJHL. His rookie season with the Shawinigan Cataractes he had already shown himself as one of the top scorers on the team, despite struggling to adjust to the differences in the North American game. Another year older, another year wiser, and Zlobin leads his team in Goals, Points, and Plus/Minus. He finished the season #6 in Goals, #18 in Points, and #6 in Plus/Minus in the entire QMJHL and was most famous for scoring the game winning goal to bring home the Memorial Cup. At that point he was scoring well over a point per game, and slightly more than half of that came from Goals.
The next season he got traded to the Val-d'Or Foreurs since Shawinigan was in the process of rebuilding. He finished the season once again as #1 in Points on his team, #9 in the entire QMJHL, scoring roughly 1 1/2 points per game. But since he had dedicated himself to improving all aspects of his game he got better at setting up his teammates and covering his own zone, so his raw goal scoring took a hit, falling to #3 in Goals and #9 in Plus/Minus on his team. But still quite excellent numbers.
When can we expect to see him?
Zlobin will be turning pro this season, but where he winds up in still up in the air. He got injured at the end of last season while practicing with the Black Aces squad in WBS and has missed out on all of the off-season activities. The Prospect Development Camp in July, Rookie Tournament in London, and now NHL Training Camp he was unable to participate due to his injuries. He has been able to observe, and take part in some aspects, but it is a huge speed bump in his development being injured during the off-season.
The speculation is that he could be out until November, which means he will also miss out on the AHL Training Camp and is almost certainly going to start his professional career with the Wheeling Nailers. We can probably expect him to spend the year in the ECHL, possibly coming up late in the season depending on injuries and trades, and then next year be back with a full summer to come back as a Top 6 scoring winger in the AHL. From there he can begin battling for an NHL job, so perhaps 3-4 years before we see him in Pittsburgh.
Why is he #12?
Zlobin received 1 vote for 6th, 1 vote for 7th, 2 votes for 11th, 2 votes for 13th, 2 votes for 14th, and 1 omitted him from the Top 25.
How can he climb the list?
He has to prove that he can score at the professional level as easily as he did in the Juniors. He is a natural sniper, but now he will be facing bigger and stronger players and more experienced defense and goaltenders. He could either turn into a bust or the next Ilya Kovalchuk/Alex Ovechkin/Nail Yakupov or he could be the next Alexandre Volchkov/Vladimir Krutov. The comparison to the Russian superstars isn't quite accurate, as they were all extremely high talented prospects that were drafted #1/#2 overall, but the same Russian stereotypes of the lazy player, selfishly focusing on scoring goals rather than setting up his teammates, and not bothering to play defensively are all things that have been said of Zlobin as well.
But Zlobin has already started to improve, so as long as he keeps working on playing in his own zone and being better able to be a team player he should be able to improve his overall game and climb the list. And of course like pretty much any young prospect, the suggestion is going to be that he needs to work on adding some more muscle so that he can become strong enough and large enough to stand up to the level of players he will be facing in the NHL.