In nearly 13 years of owning the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Mark Hunter has seen a number of players go from his organization to NHL stardom, among them Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Corey Perry and Rick Nash, so he has a pretty solid grasp of what it takes for a player to make it to the big time. And when he watches defenseman Nikita Zadorov, he sees another player ready to make that leap. "His potential is unlimited," Hunter told NHL.com. "When you see him skate in practice and games, you don't see a guy that nimble for that size, 6-5 or 6-6." The 6-foot-5.25, 230-pound blueliner has three goals and 18 points in 51 games in his first season with the Knights, and his team-best plus-30 rating is seventh in the league and tops among first-year OHL players. And for a player who enjoys playing physically and using his size and strength to his advantage, he only has 46 penalty minutes. NHL Central Scouting placed him No. 30 in its midterm ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft. "Nikita is a big man who skates very well," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He has very good mobility and his backwards skating is about the best in this year's draft. He will take the body and battles hard along the boards. He uses his long reach well and is an effective pokechecker." Hunter didn't have to go far to find Zadorov, a Moscow native. After watching Zadorov play at the 2012 World Under-17 Challenge in Windsor, Ontario, Hunter was more than just intrigued. "He's huge, number one," Hunter said. "He skates well for a big man. He's got a good shot, he can pass the puck. He's got the whole package. He's just got to round it out and put it together on a game-in, game-out basis." When Hunter learned Zadorov was interested in coming to North America, he traded with the Peterborough Petes to move up to the ninth spot in the 2012 CHL Import Draft to select Zadorov. After that, it didn't take much convincing to get the player into town. Zadorov had spent the previous season playing in the MHL, the top minor league in Russia, but said entering his NHL draft year, he had his sights set on North America and the increased exposure to NHL scouts it would bring.
Size, mobility give Zadorov 'unlimited potential'
NHL.com | May 5