Defense, London Knights
6’5″, 225 lbs
Born: April 15, 1995 – Moscow, Russia
Finding a big defenseman in the Draft is good. Finding a big defenseman who likes to use his size is better.
For all intents and purposes, the 6’5″ Nikita Zadorov is that big, physical defenseman that virtually every team wants.
Zadorov arrived in Canada this year after playing his 2011-12 season in the Russian junior system. In 63 regular season games, Zadorov scored 25 points (6 G – 19 A) and was an impressive plus-33. While plus/minus can sometimes be misleading, it’s fairly difficult to rack up a number above 30 without at least having some part in it. In his lone season in London, Zadorov held the blue line as the London Knights marched their way to the OHL championship and into the Memorial Cup Playoffs – Zadorov played in 25 games during that stretch, scoring 8 points (4 G – 4 A). For his efforts, he was named to the OHL’s All Rookie Team.
Not surprisingly, the International Scouting Service ranks Zadorov’s size and strength, as well as his defensive and physical play, as “Excellent”. According to McKeen’s, Zadorov “possesses all the components to develop into a stout shutdown defender – who could surprise with his offensive contributions.” One NHL scout claims that, “If (Darnell) Nurse goes before this kid, it will be a mistake.” Long story short, he’s big, he’s fast and he plays with his body.
The big knock on Zadorov is his decision making. Sometimes, Zadorov has a tendency to move the puck into an area that it does not really need to be in. At other times, per Future Considerations, he has a tendency to react poorly on a rush or to throw a hit at an inopportune time, leading to odd-man rushes. He also could use some lower-body conditioning in order to increase his “first-step” speed.
Projected to be a physical, two-way defenseman, Zadorov’s weaknesses are ones that can easily be solved with proper training and coaching. The big Russian could very well be the best defensive prospect in this year’s Draft class that is not named Seth Jones.
|NHL Central Scouting||22nd (North American)|
|The Hockey News||14th|
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Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/London Knights