The Buffalo Sabres had big expectations for Nikita Zadorov when they drafted him 16th overall in June. And while he may not play in the NHL this season the 6-foot-5 Russian clearly has been one of the surprise stories of training camp.

Zadorov’s play has impressed the Sabres enough that the team signed him to a three-year entry-level contract Wednesday night. Terms were not disclosed.

The 220-pounder looked good in summer development camp was a standout in the prospect tournament hosted by the Detroit Red Wings earlier this month and hasn’t looked out of place in NHL exhibitions either.

Zadorov who did not play in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in First Niagara Center has a plus-4 rating in three games and scored the Sabres’ first goal in Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Toronto.

“He is advanced and he’s continued to get better” General Manager Darcy Regier said during the first intermission Wednesday. “He was good in Traverse City and he’s continued to get better here so he’s on a nice path.”

“I’m really happy. It’s my first pro contract” Zadorov said in his improving English. “I’m in Buffalo here and just working to make the team.”

Zadorov had six goals 19 assists and 54 penalty minutes in 63 games last year for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and is expected to return there to play this year.

Zadorov 18 said at the NHL Entry Draft in Newark N.J. in June that he felt he could be more of an offensive player in spite of a reputation that has been built largely on some punishing body checks. The goal Sunday on a feed from John Scott as he moved up on the play in the Toronto zone was a good example of that.

“For sure I want to try to do more” Zadorov said. “I never played that way before. Just last year when I came to Canada the coaches showed me how to play an offensive game how to score goals. I like it.”

“I knew that he’s a great skater a pretty skilled guy” said Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko a Russian World Junior team member with Zadorov last year. “I think he’s probably surprised a lot of people that such a big guy could skate and could have amazing hands.”