Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Why Nikita Zadorov Needs to Return to the OHL

Nikita Zadorov has excited a lot of people with his play on the blueline early this season and while he’s shown flashes of a bright future the Buffalo Sabres need to send him back to the OHL for the remainder of the season.

We’ll start with the most obvious reason’s why Nikita Zadorov needs to go back to the London Knight’s in the OHL. The first

reason is Ron Rolston. If you’re going to burn a year of Zadorov’s contract yet keep him in the press box for the majority of the season then whats the point? Before last night’s game Zadorov had been a healthy scratch for 3 of the 4 previous games. Rolston wants young guys like Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen and Mikhail Grigorenko to learn by watching the game, but the best way for these young guys to learn is on the ice battling every night. If you’re not going to play Zadorov regularly then send him back to the Knights where he can be on the top defencive pair and challenge for a championship, further developing his game. No point keeping him trapped in the press box and burning a year on his contract when they have an option in the OHL for Zadorov.

Yes Nikita Zadorov is an exciting player to watch and his hits are electrifying but he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready for a full-time stint in the NHL and the best place for him to learn that is in the OHL. It’s much easier to learn when you’re apart of a winning team and the London Knights are a team that is competitive every season and with Dale Hunter running the ship the kids on that team walk a straight line. Zadorov is playing with that rookie zeal going for the big hit every shift and joining the rush, and while it’s exciting to see him hit, when he goes for a big hit he usually ends up out of position. The big hits are great but he needs to learn and understand that there is a time and a place for the big hits, what comes first is defencive play. What good is a big hit if you just take yourself out of the play and the opposition still scores? Zadorov has 25 hits but is a -4 in his 7 games and has just 1 point.

It’s important to make sure a player is developed and ready to play in the NHL, especially a defencemen. Everyone remembers Tyler Myers jaw dropping, Calder winning rookie season, but Myers game dropped off immensely since his rookie year. Then you look at Mark Pysyk, a player who the Sabres took their time in developing and see him playing this season; he’s very mature and confident in his game. Zadorov is just 18 years old and needs to develop and mature as a defenceman. With everything Zadorov has shown in his 6 games this season there is no doubt he has all the ability and skill to be a top notch shutdown defencemen in the future. He’s going to be a punishing defencemen to play against, but he has to learn to reign in his game just a little.

Nikita Zadorov has such a bright future that keeping him around the Sabres this season could be a detriment to his game. The environment in the dressing room and on the ice has to be brutal, especially for a rookie. The Sabres have a losing attitude and atmosphere, having rookies exposed to that is not the right way to develop them when they have a chance to be successful back in the OHL. Don’t let him get accustomed to a losing team or he’s going to start playing like losing is okay since the Sabres seem to be okay with it. Chances are Dale Hunter will teach and develop him more in the OHL than Rolston will in the NHL.

If Rolston is just going to sit Zadorov more often than not there is no reason to let him rot in the press box. You want Zadorov to develop either play him or send him to the OHL where he will be one of the top defencemen. Let him fully develop his game both on defence and offence before calling him to the NHL full time, let him mature. Surround him with a winning team and environment instead of the losing one in Buffalo. If the Buffalo Sabres want to preserve/see him further develop into the defenceman he can be then they need to send Nikita Zadorov back to the London Knights.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Defence NHL Nikita Zadorov

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