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When the Avalanche traded Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres yesterday in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher, and the 31st selection in today’s NHL Entry Draft, the biggest name (and player, for that matter) to be heading Colorado’s way is the monster truck-sized Zadorov as he is the centerpiece of the trade from an Avalanche perspective.
Zadorov, who turned 20 this past April, is a behemoth along the blue line, standing at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He uses his imposing size to great effect, delivering devastating hits to oncoming puck carriers and is an excellent skater for a player his size. Drafted 16th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Sabres, Zadorov has benefited from the utter lack of talent in Buffalo and has already appeared in 67 NHL games, tallying 16 points along the way.
Before heading to the NHL, Zadorov was terrorizing poor juniors players in the OHL as a member of the London Knights. A first round selection in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, Zadorov wasted no time transforming the Knights blue line, posting impressive totals of 25 points (6 g, 19 a) in 63 games played as the Knights made a lengthy postseason run. He dominated his second and final year in London, scoring 30 points (11 g, 19 a) in just 36 games., as he split the year between Buffalo, where he played in seven games, and London.
Zadorov’s first full season in the NHL was just completed this past year. While a flawed statistic, Zadorov’s plus/minus was only -10, impressive when considering he played on one of the worst teams of the last ten years. When compared to fellow 19-year old Rasmus Ristolainen, who posted a -32, it looks even more impressive, despite Ristolainen playing 18 more games than Zadorov. Offensively, he scored 15 points (3 g, 12 a) in 60 games played.
While point scoring may never be the reason Zadorov makes the NHL, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t possess impressive offensive skills. No surprise given a player his size, Zadorov possesses a blistering shot from the point and while its accuracy will never have him confused with the sport’s great marksmen he still utilizes this weapon on a consistent basis. He’s an adept passer who can be creative when he wants to, his vision and breakout ability will only improve as his confidence grows with more time played in the NHL.
In Colorado, Zadorov will likely begin the year in the NHL but could start out in the AHL with San Antonio for additional seasoning if the team is aggressive in acquiring veteran defensemen in free agency next week. His future is, at worst, as a partner for the high-flying Tyson Barrie. If Zadorov realizes his full potential, he should be a prime candidate to play Robin to Erik Johnon’s Batman for years to come.
Before getting to highlight reels of Zadorov blowing people up, let’s look at what some of the trained eyes around the NHL had to say about Zadorov in his draft year:
Zadorov is an elite physical player who possesses many tools for future success. He has a 6’5″, 220-pound frame, and he is unusually strong for a player his age. He uses it to his advantage, as he loves to take the body and land highlight reel hits. He skates at an above-average to plus level, which is significant for a player at his size. He can close gaps remarkably well.
The rest of his game is not as impressive, but he could be a fine puck mover and positional defender. Scouting sources have divided opinion on both of those fronts. He has improved as the OHL season has progressed. He shows ability to move the puck and make good reads in his own end, but his decision making is not always perfect. He possesses some offensive upside, but it is likely more in the average range. –Corey Pronman, ESPN
Potential is an overused word you’ll hear a lot come draft day but it’s a word that really describes what Nikita Zadorov’s game is about. Sure, the 6-foot-5 blueliner is a physical freak at such a young age. And sure, he’s already a very good all around player. But if he lives up to his potential, we’re talking about a franchise defenseman right here.
Zadorov’s game is a little rough around the edges, but his competitiveness and physicality allow him to really impact the game. His offense is continuing to evolve and his positioning in the defensive zone has also steadily improved this year. –The Scouting Report
Zadorov’s career statistics and some highlights are below: