In many ways Nikita Zadorov is a prototypical Russian player. He doesn’t say much, which could be traced back to the fact that he does not speak much English. He’s an 18-year-old kid right out of the heart of Moscow where intense hockey players have been produced for years. He was chosen No. 16 overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft by the Buffalo Sabres, and along with fellow rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, he is one half of the Buffalo “Twin Towers.”
The Sabres’ fans got to see a lot of Zadorov in the beginning of the 2013-14 season when former general manager Darcy Regier and former head coach Ron Rolston decided that Zadorov was ready for the NHL. He played seven games under Rolston and made a pretty decent showing of himself. But when interim head coach Ted Nolan and new president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine showed up to fire Regier and repalce Rolston, Zadorov was sent back to London, Ontario to play minor hockey. Zadorov was not ready for the NHL, but that does not mean that his future in Buffalo is not bright.
Zadorov is officially listed as 6-foot-5 and 220-pounds. But truth be told, the kid weighs more than 230-pounds. When you meet Zadorov away from the rink he is a quiet person, even when he is in Russia. He is unassuming and often described as a pleasure to be around. But when he steps on the ice he is a completely different person. He has an edge to him that can come out when he gets riled up during a game. He uses his size and his strength to establish himself on the blue line and the opposition respects his presence.
The Sabres did not send Zadorov to the CHL because he can’t play the NHL game. They sent him down because Zadorov needs to become more aggressive with the puck. He has a huge slapshot from the point and his complete game could be compared to Zdeno Chara. Zadorov has the size and the strength, but he lacks that fire for scoring that could make him a great player.
The Sabres are waiting to see if Zadorov develops that zen for the net while playing in London. If he can figure out how to start using his size and his strength to put pucks in the net, then Sabres fans will see this player in the next year or two.