When Nikita Zadorov’s name was called from the podium, there were many boos coming from the First Niagra Centre as the Sabres had just drafted Dman Rasmus Ristolainen earlier in the first round. Fans were unable to understand why Darcy Regier would draft two Dmen in the first round when there are players such as Brayden McNabb and Marc Pysyk ready to make the jump to the NHL. The truth was the Sabres were already loaded with young talent upfront with Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, Zemgus Girgensons and Joel Armia coming to mind. I will tell you why Darcy Regier made the right choice when drafting Nikita Zadorov.
After just playing in one OHL season, Zadorov impressed greatly, compiling 25 goals in 63 games, and throw in a whopping plus 33 rating. At just 18 years of age and sitting at 6’5” and 221 lbs, Zadorov has an abundance of upside to his game. With just under a week till the start of the season, Zadorov still remains up with the big club, so one may beg the question, “Will Zadorov crack the opening day lineup”?
Being a London Ontario native, I have had the privilege to watch Zadorov play in the OHL over the course of the past year. The one thing in my mind that stands out to me about Zadorov was his physicality. Zadorov would not back down from taking the body, and if you were an opposing forward, you did not want to get into Zadorov’s way. As his rookie season went on, Zadorov’s defensive play greatly improved and this definitely showed in his plus/minus. When he got possession of the puck, he was calm and cool with it, and always made the right choice while exiting the defensive zone. Despite only being 18 years of age, the sky is the limit when it comes to Zadorov.
Zadorov made great strides offensively as his OHL rookie season went on. Although he only tallied six goals, his shot greatly improved throughout the season. In the coming years, Zadorov will make for a great top pair Dman because he has the ability to clear the crease, move the puck and make smart decisions in his defensive zone, not to mention chip in offensively as well.
When it comes to the question of whether or not Nikita Zadorov will make the Buffalo Sabres opening night roster or not, I think the best bet is to send him back to the OHL and let him develop his offensive game instead of rushing him in. Although he has looked fine this preseason, Zadorov would benefit the most by playing one more season under Dale Hunter. Only time will tell whether or not Zadorov will make the Sabres or be sent back to the London Knights.
What’s your say on this Sabres fans?