Alongside fellow 2013 NHL draftee Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov has had a stellar training camp on the Buffalo Sabres blue line. He’s played so well he’s forced the Sabres to sign him to his NHL entry-level contract. While the entry-level deal doesn’t guarantee that Zadorov will be sticking in Buffalo, it at least gives the Sabres the option for him to start the season in Buffalo.
Zadorov had one of the best showings in the Traverse City tournament prior to camp and has carried that momentum into camp. He’s
scored 1 goal and racked up 4 penalty minutes while looking very solid on the blue line. At the young age of 18, there is still lot’s of time for Zadorov to mature and develop his game before he needs to be playing at the NHL level.
On the flip side, Zadorov has at times shown glimpses that he is indeed ready to rock the Sabres blue line and his best shot to crack the jammed blue line is as the 7th defenceman. While there is a lot of potential surrounding Zadorov the Sabres also have a recent history of mishandling rookies with the Mikhail Grigorenko situation last season, so they’ll want to play it cool with Zadorov and give him every opportunity to be successful.
If Zadorov fails to crack the final Sabres roster, his next option is to be returned to his OHL team the London Knights. The good news is the Sabres can allow him to play 9 games, without burning a year and considering the rebuild approach that might not be a horrible idea. Give the kid some time to see some actual NHL action and to determine what he needs to do to be ready for a blue line spot with the Sabres.
If he is sent back down to junior he will have the opportunity to lead the Knights and improve on his solid campaign last season. Zadorov is so young and although he has shown great potential, he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of his true talent. He has so much to offer especially on offence.
So my question to all of you Sabres’ fans- Has Zadorov done enough to force the Sabres to keep him or will be ultimately be sent back down to the OHL?