Nikita Zadorov: Get to Know the Avs Big D-Man


“(Nikita Zadorov) is going to be on the back end for a good 10 years for us.”

The Colorado Avalanche acquired defensman Nikita Zadorov as part of the trade that took center Ryan O’Reilly and winger Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old Zadorov is getting ready to enter the second year of his three-year entry-level contract with an annual cap hit of $894,167.

I somehow suspect Zadorov was an insistence on Avalanche GM Joe Sakic‘s part. Not to say head coach Patrick Roy wasn’t on board with the acquisition, but Sakic seems especially enthusiastic with the addition of Zadorov. So, there’s obviously something to be excited about — let’s see what it is.

Nikita Zadorov Statistics

Former team: Buffalo Sabres
Shoots: Left
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 230 pounds
Age: 20

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One thing should be immediately obvious about Nikita Zadorov — he is one big mudder. He’s also young in a position that takes a while to develop, defense.

That said, Zadorov contributed to the Buffalo Sabres. He earned three goals and 12 assists in 60 games with the Sabres. He was a dismal -10 with Buffalo, but let’s remember this is the team that finished dead last in the whole NHL.

Zadorov didn’t see a ton of ice time with the Sabres, just 17.70 minutes average per game. That’s a little low for a defenseman. (By comparison, Avs third-pairing defenseman Nick Holden averaged 19.79 minutes per game.)

Despite that, Zadorov made the minutes count. He blocked 73 shots total, or 4.1 per 60. He also delivered 134 big hits, or 7.6 per 60. In his post-season interview, Zadorov stated he was actually going to work more on his physical play.

Nikita Zadorov Playing Style

Nikita Zadorov is considered a stay at home defenseman of the zealous kind. He’s on the mean side — he takes great pleasure in laying out opponents. And as stated above, he intends to work even more on his physicality.

Here’s an example of Zadorov laying out an Avalanche arch rival, the Detroit Red Wings:

Needless to say, all here in Avs Nation approve of laying big hits on Red Wings players such as

Darren Helm

. We like those open-ice hits in general.

Zadorov isn’t known for being a great skater — that may be something the Avs work on with him in training camp considering how big a focus it was in prospect development camp.

Nikita Zadorov does have some two-way ability as a young defenseman. Here’s an example of Zadorov doing what the Avs need some help with, scoring on the power play:

Nikita Zadorov also knows how to score on the Central Division Winnipeg Jets:

Zadorov is young and still needs to work on his positioning and general ice vision. It takes a while for a defenseman to develop.

Nikita Zadorov’s Role with the Avalanche

Joe Sakic has faith in Nikita Zadorov. It sounds like Sakic expects Zadorov to become part of the central core of the Avalanche defense. The Avs wanted to get bigger and grittier, and Zadorov is both big and gritty.

As of right now, it also sounds like the plan is to pair Zadorov with offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie. Zadorov is a generous upgrade on Barrie’s previous defensive partner, Nate Guenin. In fact, you could almost see Zadorov taking a protective stance for the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Barrie. “You touch Barrie, you get Big Z.”

Imagine Nikita Zadorov doing this next time someone tries to mess with defensive partner Tyson Barrie:

On the flip side, Barrie just completed his second full year in the NHL. He’s only 23 himself. That’s a lot of green on the Avs’ second defensive pairing.

I somehow see Zadorov spending some time with #1 defenseman Erik Johnson on the top pairing. No question Zadorov is going to have to increase his skating skill to keep up with Johnson. However, I feel Zadorov can learn a lot from the 27-year-old Johnson. Plus, they’re both big, mean mudders — it would not be pleasant for the top lines to look at the Avs defense and see those two players.

No matter how you slice it, watching Nikita Zadorov is going to be a treat.

Next: Get to Know Carl Soderberg

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