PHILADELPHIA – While the NHL plus-minus statistic might be a subjective number, there’s no dismissing Egor Zamula’s plus-8 as simply a lucky digit.
The Flyers’ young Russian defenseman has played so well, he keeps getting more playing time and an increased presence in key situations.
Compared to his play a year ago, he looks much more composed with the puck. He doesn’t always wait for the play to come to him but rather initiates. There’s very little sitting back on the heels in his game.
Some people thought Zamula might take a step back this year after his countryman, Ivan Provorov, was traded away, eventually landing in Columbus with the Blue Jackets.
But Zamula, a 23-year-old native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, has made some necessary adjustments to his game and the results can be verified right there on the stat sheets.
“I’m happy about that (plus number) but I’m focusing on every shift, I have mistakes as well, too,” he said prior to Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. “You need to work every shift hard.
“This is my first real year in the NHL pretty much. Now I feel more comfortable. I need to focus on my defensive plays but don’t forget about offensive plays. If I can see a play, make that play. I focus on my defensive zone a lot. I think that’s helped me.”
It helps when your partner happens to be 27-year-old Sean Walker, who has logged considerable time in the NHL. Having someone like that can rectify a lot of mistakes, both in real time and after games.
“He’s great with the first pass,” Zamula commented. “He’s a great skater and teammate. He’s teaching me a lot, especially the little things, like good positioning, good stick. Be quick, be smart when you’re changing.”
Provorov really helped Zamula acclimate to life in North America as well as assist his play on the ice.
“I love playing with the puck and I think my best pass is my first pass,” Zamula said. “And ‘Provy’ taught me a lot. When I first signed here (in 2018 as a free agent) he helped me a lot. Now he’s playing with a different team and I’m the only Russian left here.
“It’s a little tough but I think it’s good for me to learn better English.”
In fact, Zamula’s command of the language has improved. He says he doesn’t read books, magazines or newspapers in English that much but rather picks up things by talking a lot with some of his younger teammates.
“I think young guys like Tyson Foerster, ‘Beezer’ (Joel Farabee), Bobby (Brink) help me a lot,” the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Zamula said. “I spent this past summer here and I see those people everyday. And I grew up around English, too.”
There are some humorous moments, like when a bunch of guys go to a restaurant and Zamula tries to read the menu.
“I’m not scared to say something if I’m not correct,” he said. “But when I say something incorrect, I hear guys laughing. I only watch hockey on TV, soccer a little bit, maybe NBA. I just learn from my teammates. I think it’s better that way.”
>Hot start for Konecny
Travis Konecny is off to the fastest start of his career, with eight goals in 11 games heading into the L.A. game.
Right place at the right time? Or is there more to it than that?
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “We have one common goal, get our team on the right track.”
At 26, Konecny was scheduled to play in his 500th NHL game on Saturday night. He broke into the league when he was just 19. Does it feel like that many games?
“It’s crazy and no it doesn’t,” he said. “It just flies by. Now I’m in a position to tell the guys in the room to enjoy it while they can. I was told the same thing when I came into the league.”
The Flyers headed into Saturday night’s game leading the NHL in first-period goals with 18. Surprising?
“We’re just trying to be on our toes right away,” Konecny said. “If you can jump on a team right away and kind of kill their confidence, that really helps.”