Nikita Zadorov is a huge man with good speed who likes hitting people. The second point is what differentiates him from the Kyle Bigoses of the world, and while there are other qualities that have helped Zadorov into eleventh in the consensus rankings, the combination of those three are undoubtedly very important.
Zadorov was ranked sixteenth in the consensus rankings in September after playing his Draft -1 season in the MHL (Russia's top junior league) where he scored six points in forty-one games. That total was good enough for seventh... on his team... So, yeah; he's not an offensive player. Then again, he did score two goals in six games at the U18 WJC at the end of the 2011-12 season, and since that's where most scouts would have seen him, there may have been at least a little bit of optimism around his ability to grow offensively.
Zadorov decided that the best way for him to grow period was by coming to the CHL. As with most Russian players who come to the CHL for their draft year, he saw a bump in his ranking by assuaging concerns about his commitment to being a professional in North America and by getting himself in front of a few more eyes on a regular basis.
As for his ability to score, well, it came around a little, but Zadorov remains an inferior offensive player to all of the other defensemen generally slotted at this point in the draft. How much of a concern is that? Let's look at some comparables to find out. In this case, a comparable player was someone who played his draft year in the CHL, had an adjusted points per game rate between 0.35 and 0.42 (90% to 110% of Zadorov's offensive production), and was selected somewhere between 6th and 16th overall. A player with similar goal-scoring is highlighted in blue.
It's a list of NHL players, but the only guy I'd peg as a top pairing defender is Tyler Myers, and he might not qualify for that tag in a year or two. In the chart below, I've listed each player's number of regular season games, his time on ice per game (if the NHL was recording TOI for more than half of the games he played), his points per game, and the first season he played in at least forty games.
There's not a lot to be excited over here. More and Ference are third pairing guys, and even Jay McKee played more than twenty minutes per game in just three of the eleven season for which we have TOI data. There's also a more substantial wait time on these players (if McIrath arrives in the NHL next season, his first 40-game year will be in his Draft +4 season) than what we saw for Nurse's comparables, so any team drafting Zadorov should be aware that it might mean waiting three to five years before he's ready for his rookie year in the NHL, and longer still before he's having a really positive impact, if in fact he ever gets there.
I'm confident that Nikita Zadorov will play games in the NHL, which I suppose makes him a safe pick for someone. I'm also confident that some team will think he's got a better chance of being the next Tyler Myers than I do and will thus pick him earlier than I would. A more likely outcome seems to be a 4th or 5th defenseman ready to play in 4 or 5 years. As a result, I expect quite a few players to pass Zadorov on my list.
Next up this afternoon: Ryan Pulock
My Draft List:
1 - Nathan MacKinnon (Comparables)
2 - Jonathan Drouin (Comparables)
3 - Seth Jones (Comparables)
4 - Aleksander Barkov (Comparables)
5 - Elias Lindholm (Comparables)
6 - Valeri Nichushkin (Comparables)
7 - Sean Monahan (Comparables)
8 - Rasmus Ristolainen (Comparables)
9 - Darnell Nurse (Comparables)
10 - Hunter Shinkaruk (Comparables)
11 - Nikita Zadorov