2010-11: Nikita Zadorov skated for the CSKA-Moscow U16 and U17 teams and played for Russia in the U16 Four Nationals tournament. In 45 games he scored 5 goals with 22 assists and had 62 penalty minutes. In five games in the Russian (U17) championship he had 2 assists and was plus-four with 4 penalty minutes.
2011-12: Zadorov played for CSKA-Red Army in Russia’s MHL (U22 minor league) as a 16-year-old and represented Russia in the U17 World Hockey Challenge and 2012 U18 World Junior Championship. He scored 2 goals with 4 assists and was plus-20 with 63 penalty minutes in 41 regular season games and in eight playoff games was plus-two with 8 penalty minutes. He skated in six games at the WHC and had 3 assists with 12 penalty minutes. In six games at the U18 WJC he scored 2 goals and was plus-four. Zadorov was selected by the London Knights (OHL) in the 1st Round (ninth overall) in the 2012 CHL Import Draft.
2012-13: Zadorov was one of the top defenseman for a London Knights team that finished with the Ontario Hockey League’s best record. In 63 regular season games he was plus-33 and scored 6 goals with 19 assists; amassing 54 penalty minutes. Zadorov was a candidate for Russia’s U20 team but was not selected for the team that competed in Ufa. He was ranked 30th among North American skaters in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings and 22nd in the final rankings and was selected by Buffalo in the first round (16th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
Zadorov is a not-so-gentle giant on the blueline. He is personable off the ice, but plays with a mean streak once the game starts. Viewed as one of the cornerstones of the rebuilding project in Buffalo, he has the size and physicality to dominate. His zeal to lay out his opponents with the big hit can take him out of the play but he should become more discerning as he gains experience. Zadorov is an effective stay-at-home blueliner but has some offensive tools. He has a solid shot and can make a strong first pass to generate the transition.
Zadorov is skating in the NHL as a 19-year-old and has shown promise on a Sabres team that has been overmatched most nights, struggling to score goals. Still fairly raw in terms of his positional play and overall game, he has the physical tools and skating ability to be a Victor Hedman-type defenseman capable of logging a lot of minutes. He is still developing at this point but should fit very nicely on a top pairing as the defensively responsible, crease-clearer.