“La Femme Nikita” is the story of a secret assassin who works in the shadows. Le “blueliner” Nikita, London Knights' Nikita Zadorov, has no such anonymity. After all, at 6’7” with a propensity for big hits and a big shot, it’s hard to miss the Russian defenseman.

And scouts have noticed. Zadorov was most-recently ranked sixth overall by ISS Hockey and was listed among the OHL’s top-10 prospects by Central Scouting.

“[In North America], it’s a very aggressive game; it’s very fast,” Zadorov said. ““I love playing in the smaller rink. I’m a bigger guy, I love the big hit, and I love playing aggressively.

“I think I play better here.”

In 63 regular season games, Zadorov scored six goals and added 19 assists. He racked up 54 minutes in penalties and finished a team-high (and tied for ninth in the OHL) +33.

Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter said Zadorov’s diverse skill set has been an incredible asset for the team.

“He’s an exceptional talent. His tools are amazing for a guy that’s 6’7” [listed at 6’5”]. I’d say the only negative thing about him is that he tried to make that big hit every time, which we liked — but sometimes there’s a place for it,” Hunter said. “He’s now doing a very good job knowing when that place is. At the beginning of the year, I remember that he came in wanting 200 hits, which is good to see for someone with his talent.

“Most guys with his talent just want to come in and score goals, but he has that rough side of his game. He really enjoys it.”

One of the biggest challenges for foreign-born players is acclimatizing to the North American game. Zadorov’s transition has been relatively smooth thanks to the in-season presence of Olli Maatta and the off-season guidance of former Knight, Vladimir Namestnikov. And he hasn’t been missing the comforts of home because home came overseas with him.

“I’m not missing the food,” Zadorov said. “We have a Russian store here. They provide Russian food so I can have Russian meals — and I live with my mom.”

Zadorov’s father and brother have remained in Russia, but the maternal presence has been a boon for his transition, Hunter added.

“He’s only a 17-year-old guy. It’s tough enough for a guy from Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay to come down here, I can’t imagine what’s it’s like to come overseas,” he said. “So having her there is a big help for him. She’s a great lady and she takes good care of him.”

And leaning on the experience of last year’s Finnish import Maatta has been a natural progression, Hunter added.