Player: Nikita Zadorov
Drafted By: Buffalo Sabres (16th overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 22 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'5'', 221 lbs
DOB: April 16, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: OHL, London Knights
Nikita Zadorov knows that many NHL teams have questions about signing Russian-born players, so to prove he wanted to play in North America, the Moscow native joined the OHL's London Knights this past season.
Zadorov has been a physical presence for the Knights this year. He scored six goals and 25 points in 63 games during the regular season and was an impressive plus-33. He added two goals and six points in 20 playoff games.
Full Scouting Report
Size is the first thing anybody notices about Nikita Zadorov. The Moscow native stands 6'5" and weighs an imposing 221 pounds. Scouts are pleased that Zarodov isn't afraid to use his size and plays a physical game.
Mark Hunter, a coach with the London Knights, raved about Zadorov. "He's an intelligent kid. He's grown so much -- he's so big. We knew he was going to figure it out. He's not scared. He hits people, he finishes his checks. There's so much to like about him it's ridiculous."
In addition, scouts are impressed with the way Zadorov skates for a big man. "Nikita is a big man who skates very well," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He has very good mobility and his backwards skating is about the best in this year's draft. He will take the body and battles hard along the boards. He uses his long reach well and is an effective pokechecker."
The only issue scouts have about Zadorov is that because of his size, he may need more time than many other highly rated prospects to reach his full potential.
He also has had a tendency to go for big hits that look great on highlight reels but can take him out of position defensively, something most scouts believe he can overcome with more experience.
NHL Player Comparison
Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins. Like Chara, Zadorov has great size and is a smooth skater. He also plays a physical game and will make life tough on opposing forwards who want to get close to Zadorov's goaltender.
Because of his size and because he is a defenseman, it will take Zadorov a little longer to mature and reach the NHL. Remember, he's only played one year of junior hockey in North America. Expect him to reach the NHL on a full-time basis during 2015-16 season. Figure one more year in junior and one season in the AHL should have him ready to play his physical game against men instead of boys.
Scouts see some offensive potential in Zadorov. His top-end potential has him set to become a big No. 1 defenseman like Chara who can play on the power play, kill penalties and log major minutes. Even if he doesn't develop an offensive game, his size and willingness to hit make him a solid second-pairing defenseman who will make life difficult for opposing forwards. With his earth-shattering hits, Zadorov should become a fan favorite in whatever city he plays in.