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What does Nikita Zadorov bring to his potential suitors?

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
6 months ago
Nikita Zadorov’s name has been in the news for a few weeks now, and it seems like talks are slowly progressing forward between teams. We heard that there were multiple suitors for his skills on the back-end, most recently from Kevin Weekes after he put out this tweet.
Then, Weekes put out another tweet stoking the fire just a bit more, saying the Vancouver Canucks have entered the fray after trading Anthony Beauvillier to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now that the rumours are up to date, I think it’s time to address what Zadorov actually brings to the team he plays for outside of the “he’s a big, physical defenceman” type talk.
Yes, Zadorov is a physical presence on the blue line for any team that he plays for, but as of lately, he has taken a more advanced role outside of the physical side of things. The first piece I ever wrote here at Flames Nation was about Zadorov and his impact on the Flames, and the same sentiments that I wrote in that article hold true today. He’s a very capable defensive defenceman, just looking at his regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart, and this season, he appears to have taken on the role of generating offence every once in a while. Let’s look at his RAPM chart and then a couple of clips.
When he’s on the ice, he’s not generating tons of offence that will show up in the box score, but the other team isn’t getting many shots, and they aren’t getting high-danger ones if they manage to put the puck toward the net.
Here’s a great defensive play that led to a 2-on-0, which he probably should have passed on:
And here’s his only goal of the season, thanks to an absolute rocket of a slapshot:
Last season (and so far this season as well), Zadorov made sure to get involved in the rush from the back-end, especially when the team wasn’t getting much performance out of the big-name players. He felt it was his responsibility to try and create a spark, which he has done a couple of times. In 2022-23, he was second on the team in Carried Exits per Corey Sznajder’s data on All Three Zones.
Zadorov can make poor mistakes sometimes, but overall, he’s a pretty reliable defenceman who has been known to create offence off the rush occasionally. He’s a perfectly solid second or third-pair defenceman who is also a leader in the locker room. Teams around the league, especially those toward the top of the standings (or those who were projected to be toward the top), could lessen his usage a bit and really see him shine in a position next to a true offensive defenceman.

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