Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Draft Pick Profile: Nikita Zadorov


The Buffalo Sabres added something new to their defense corps during the 2013 NHL Entry Draft on June 30: a Russian. The team drafted blueliner Nikita Zadorov of the OHL’s London Knights with the 16th overall selection in the 2013 draft.

The Sabres selected Zadorov with a pick that many – myself included – believed was headed for Valeri Nichushkin, the second-highest ranked European skater according to Central Scouting’s final rankings. Instead, the Sabres went for Zadorov, a skilled defenseman who just completed his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights. Central scouting had him ranked #30 in midterm with a final ranking of #22.

The 18-year-old Moscow native comes in at 6-foot-5 and weighing 221 pounds, and was drafted by the London Knights with the 9th overall selection of the 2012 CHL Import Draft. His size and mobility are two factors that he’ll bring to the Sabres lineup in several years; for now, he’ll remain in the Ontario Hockey League.

As a rookie, Zadorov appeared in 63 regular season games with the Knights, missing just five games in the season. He made his OHL debut on September 21 as the Knights defeated the Erie Otters, 8-2. Zadorov was a plus-3 and had five penalty minutes.

The London Knights went on a 24-game winning streak from November 2 until January 1. This stretch would see Zadorov score two goals – including his first OHL goal on November 11 against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He’d also add seven assists and 12 penalty minutes during the near-record-breaking stretch, and was a plus-17 during that time.

In total on the season, he had six goals and 19 assists for 25 points, and also had 54 penalty minutes. The season included three multi-point games for the young defenseman. Zadorov ended the season as a plus-33 on the top team in the OHL, as the Knights went 50-13-2-3 and had 105 points in 68 regular season games.

Zadorov led Knights rookies in points and was second behind Olli Maatta, a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for defense scoring on the team. His plus-33 was tied with Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Max Domi for the best on the Knights.

He also appeared in 20 of 21 playoff games for the Knights before the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks eventually knocked the team out of the Memorial Cup in the semifinal match-up.

Zadorov will return to the Knights for his second season in the Ontario Hockey League this coming fall. Expect him to be a powerful, skilled addition to the Buffalo Sabres blueline several years down the road.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Nikita Zadorov

  • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

    I like this pick. Hope he pans out, as he could be a fearsome presence on the blueline for the Sabres in a few years.

    • Kevin

      Agreed, if he pans out the way he was described he could be the toughest Sabres D-Man in years.

    • Mrhegel

      Did you see the hits he was delivering in the highlights that were shown?! He is a monster! He also, according to the TSN experts, has the hardest slapshot of anyone in this year’s draft class. Better than Seth Jones in that regard, maybe not as an all around player, but I hear he’s a really monster on the Power Play and a really good manager from the blueline on the man advantage. Something we need over Myers whose trademark move on the powerplay was “hold it….hold it….hold it….get it stolen away OR pass it into the defense and give it away…”

  • davidmuscalo

    Another wasted draft pick that will never make out of the minors!

    • wolfdoctor

      Nonsense. He will be a great player.

      • davidmuscalo

        In the AHL!

  • Mrhegel

    I love Sabres fans. We’re always so supportive and hopeful….

  • Craig C.

    Nothing personal, Melissa, but I was hoping to learn more about Zadarov, not just read stats. What kind of person is he? Why did Darcy draft him where he did? What does Rolston think of him? What did the London coaches say about him? What are the pros and cons of his game? etc., etc. That’s what a profile is!

    • Melissa Kania

      Craig, if I had the ability to speak to Darcy or Rolston about this choice – I would have, and I would have included their thoughts in this piece. Your guess is as good as mine as to why Darcy chose to draft Nikita over someone else at this position. I like to think it’s because Darcy was watching Nikita’s play and realized what potential he’s got.

      As I said above, his size is certainly an impressive factor that he’ll eventually bring to the Sabres lineup, but he’s still got a few years in the OHL before that happens. He’s also a great skater – Central Scouting made a note of his backwards skating ability, though his movement as a whole is a great factor to have in a future Sabres prospect.

      • Craig C.

        I was just making suggestions. You don’t have to interview these people, just give them credit – as you did above with that interesting comment from Central Scouting – for their descriptions or comments on a subject matter. Writing nothing but stats is boring, and I mean that as constructive criticism/advice. I hope you take it as such. I was a reporter/editor at a daily newspaper for 30 years so I have some experience in writing and was not attacking you personally. I hope you know that. Thanks for your reply!

        • Melissa Kania

          I still haven’t seen any comments from Rolston about the draft, unless I’m missing them somewhere. As for Regier, I haven’t had a chance to watch his recap video. And I don’t believe anyone but a London Knights fan or someone who watches him/the team very closely is a fair judge of being able to write off the pros & cons of Zadorov’s game – I haven’t seen him play nearly enough times to be able to fairly tell you that sort of stuff. I think far too many people try to analyze a player based on seeing nothing but highlights online, and I refuse to do that as a writer.

          Regardless, I have plenty of experience in writing myself, but thanks for your input.

  • Andrew

    A taller Darius Kasparaitus.