In our series leading up to Sunday's NHL Draft, yesterday we took a look at a big, right-shooting European defenseman who might be around at 10 but shouldn't be on the board when the Isles pick at 15. Today we look at the left-shooting version.
Nikita Zadorov only has those superficial similarities to Rasmus Ristolainen, and unlike the Finn, Zadorov is playing in Canadian juniors with London. Thus, Zadorov lacks the ol' coveted "plays with men" tag.
But he has the frame of a man. And there are other attributes to like if he somehow lasts until 15, and if the Isles are cool with starting off the draft with another defenseman after last summer's blueline gluttony.
Listed as high as 6'5 and 220 lbs., Zadorov has the size teams dream of and the desire to use it.
14: The Hockey News
16: Hockey Prospectus (Pronman)
4 (NA skaters): Central Scouting
What they're saying about Zadorov...
Zadorov is a rare breed of defensive prospects especially when you consider what would have to be considered above-average offensive potential. Zadorov's mobility makes him an extremely exciting player even when he doesn't have the puck as no player on the opposition is safe when he's in the area. He consistently shows a willingness to throw his weight around and alter the momentum of the game with physically punishing bodychecks.
He is a gifted player, with elite physicality, great skating, and nice offensive touch. That package of tools is a rare commodity. Still, Zadorov has several issues that place above-average risks on his projection.
His skating base is very good and his stride is long and powerful and he's able to gain a lot of ice quickly. This allows him to be a threat offensively but it also makes it very difficult to gain an advantage on him defensively. He will play physical and he can be a significant physical presence in the game. He has good awareness with the puck and has a heavy shot...
THN Draft Preview:
If a team wants an enormous project in terms of size and development, Zadorov is it. The team drafting him will have to wait a couple years to see how good he can be in the NHL. "Even if he didn't develop one bit the next three years, he's still going to be a solid NHLer," one scout said. If he does develop, he's going to be an absolute stud."
At the risk of ridiculousness by bringing up Zdeno Chara (the towering gem and former Isles pick against whom all tall prospects are absurdly measured), the pre-draft language on Zadorov remind you of what they said about a young Chara: "Should be solid, but if he develops, man, look out."
All talk of enormous potential if the already oversized Zadorov's game keeps developing.
Oh, the draft's eternal friend, if.