NEW YORK, NY–For the first time since 2007, you will not hear Garth Snow called to the podium to make one of the draft’s first five picks. Actually, for the first time in his tenure, Garth Snow has a non-lottery first round draft choice to use.
The Islanders are slotted to pick 15th on June 30th, Draft Day, the first time the Islanders will be selecting outside of the top ten since they drafted Ryan O’Marra 15th-overall in 2005. This year’s draft class runs deep, so the Islanders should have a surplus of highly touted prospects to choose from when it’s their turn to add to the organization’s already deep prospect pool.
Today, Eyes on Isles continues its “Picking Prospects” series with the largest player in this year’s NHL Draft. Nikita Zadorov, the stage is yours.
Nikita Zadorov, D, London Knights, OHL
63 GP, 6 G, 19 A, 25 Pts, +33, 54 PIM
Standing at 6′ 5″ tall and weighing in at 230 lbs, Zadorov is one of the bulkiest player entering the draft. And the Isles needn’t look any further to fill any ‘large’ holes in their line up, as this London Knights D-man will more than suffice.
The 18-year-old Russian defenseman just wrapped up his first season in North America, but unlike most CHL imports, Zadorov has been incredible. Unlike the most recent prospects we have covered, though, Zadorov doesn’t stand out because of his offensive abilities.
Zadorov is the “whole package,” as Mark Hunter, owner of the London Knights, said back in February. For a big man, his mobility is very impressive. Nikita is a very good skater that takes big, powerful strides. His backwards skating is “about the best in this year’s draft.”
Defensively, Zadorov has very few weaknesses. Unafraid to use his large frame, Zadorov enjoys outmuscling opposing players in the corners and in front of the net. He also, in his own words, “loves the big hit.”
Zadorov also provides keen passing abilities, and a useful cannon of a shot that makes him a threat in the offensive zone, whether it is while at even strength or with the man-advantage.
For those who worry about drafting a prospect that will bolt to the KHL, Nikita Zadorov wants the NHL to be his home.
“I want to play in the NHL,” Zadorov told NHL.com in February. “It’s my dream and I want to play only here.”
Why would Nikita Zadorov be a good selection for the Islanders?
The Islanders are in the midst of revamping their defensive corps. In a few seasons, the days of smaller defensemen will be gone. Bruno Gervais will seem like a distant memory on Long Island. The arrivals of Griffin Reinhart (6’4), Scott Mayfield (6’4), Andrey Pedan (6’4), Doyle Somerby (6’5), and Loic Leduc (6’6), among others, will signify a changing of the guard on Long Island.
And why not? The Islanders have been one of the smaller teams in the Eastern Conference for years, constantly getting beaten up by the larger, physical teams. Since the rebuild initiated, the Islanders have struggled mightily against teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins.
At the past few drafts, the Islanders indicated they would fight fire with fire. They drafted size on defense, and Nikita Zadorov would only continue that trend, except Nikita could possibly be the best out of all of the Islanders’ “sizable” draft choices. A defenseman with his size and defensive acumen could have unlimited potential.
Nikita Zadorov would look great in an XXL Islanders’ uniform on draft day.