Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2013 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical draft profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! For a Complete Listing of all our 2013 Draft Articles Click here.
Edit: Drafted 16th Overall by the Buffalo Sabres
The London Knights made a trade with Peterborough to move up to the number 9 pick in last year’s CHL import draft and take hulking defenceman Nikita Zadorov out of Russia. Its turned out to be an inspired move by the Knights as Zadorov has developed into a solid contributor on the London blueline and was a big part of the Knights finishing with the OHL’s best record this season.
Internationally Zadorov was cut from the Russian team and did not participate in this year’s World Junior Championships. Internationally he has represented Russia at both the Under 17 and Under 18 levels, and should be a good bet to make their WJC squad next season.
Born — Moscow, Russia
Height 6.05 — Weight 228 — Shoots Left
February Rank: 11
Zadorov is best known for his defensive skills. A huge defenceman, he dishes out big hits, and opposing forwards really need to keep their heads up if coming down his end of the ice. He is mean along the boards and in front of the net. His skating and mobility is top notch, making him really hard to get by one on one. His pivots are crisp, and his edgework outstanding which allows him to maintain his gap control, cover a lot of ice, and close quickly on a forward and take the body. His backwards skating is outstanding, which makes him very difficult to beat one-on-one off the rush.
He’s a willing shot blocker and his long stick can be an asset in the defensive zone. Zadorov does sometimes have a tendency to overcommit on the hit though, and this can get him out of position. He also needs to work on his poise with the puck, especially when under pressure as he can have a tendency to make some bad passes and giveaways in his own end of the rink. Overall though, his defensive game shows a lot of potential, its just a little rough around the edges right now and needs some polish.
Offensively, Zadorov has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the season. Early in the year he was strictly a stay at home type, but is now using his good mobility to allow himself to join the rush and then recover quickly. In the offensive end he has a very hard and heavy slapshot, and can let it fly from the point. He also has decent vision and passing skills from the back end, but again struggles at times when under heavy pressure. His stickhandling and wrist shot are also decent. This is another area where Zadorov is highly skilled, but again very raw and will need some time to develop.
When it comes to Stylistic comparisons, Zadorov reminds us of a bigger version of Niklas Kronwall. The sky is the limit for Zadorov in terms of ceiling, but there are some big questions as to whether or not he can reach that potential. He has all the skills, but his game is just not as polished or as NHL ready as the four defencemen we have ranked above him. Zadorov could be a real boom of a pick though, as he has a unique mixture of size, mobility, and mean streak that is hard to find, and if properly nurtured could make him an elite NHL blueliner.
Zadorov has shown that he won’t back down from anyone. Fighting noted OHL tough guy Johnny McGuire in his first OHL game:
Check back tomorrow for our number 13 prospect.
Thanks for reading, as always feel free to leave comments below and follow me on twitter @lastwordBKerr. Give the rest of the hockey department a follow while you’re at it – @BigMick99, @IswearGAA, and @LastWordOnNHL, and follow the site @lastwordonsport.
Interested in writing for LastWordOnSports? If so, check out our “Join Our Team” page to find out how.