The foreseeable end of Ryan O’Reilly being a member of the Colorado Avalanche came to pass at this years NHL entry draft. Right after the Buffalo Sabres selected Jack Eichel with the second overall pick, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a blockbuster trade that involved the Sabres. The Sabres had acquired Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Mikhail Grigorenko, forward J.T Compher, the 31st overall pick in the draft and probably most importantly, defenceman Nikita Zadorov.
Zadorov was selected 16th overall by the Sabres in the 2013 draft and has played in 67 NHL regular season games in the past two seasons. At just 20 years old Zadorov seems to be the largest piece the Avalanche wanted to acquire for O’Reilly. Zadorov is listed as 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs over 220 pounds. For many seasons now the largest question mark in the Avalanche’s roster has been on the blue line and Zadorov should certainly help secure the back-end.
Entering his first season with the Avalanche, Zadorov is also entering the final year of his entry-level contract. The Avalanche may be so confident in Zadorov, that they may sign him before the season starts. If they don’t however, it is safe to say a deal will get done during the season that will keep Zadorov in the Avalanche lineup for many years to come. The Avalanche were not willing to pay O’Reilly the $8 million a year that he wanted but the organization will make a contract offer to the young defenceman that is just beginning his NHL career.
At just 20 years of age, Zadorov will be one of the youngest players on the Avalanche roster but not by much. The players that are considered the core of the team are ages 27 or younger. The Avalanche have several pieces of their team signed to the 2018 season and beyond and Zadorov may join that group of players.
Over the past two seasons the Avalanche have had a defensive core that features some less than noticeable names. On a teleconference before the draft General Manager Joe Sakic and Head Coach Patrick Roy said their top goal was to acquire a left hand shooting defenceman. The play of Erik Johnson has improved under Head Coach Patrick Roy and he is definitely the Avalanche’s number one on the back-end and it is safe to say Zadorov will play along side him.
In the past Johnson has been given permission to jump up into the play when he sees an opening and Zadorov could be the perfect stay at home partner for him. Zadorov uses his big body to knock players off the puck and turn the puck the other way.
Zadorov was the largest piece returned to the Avalanche in the trade for O’Reilly. If the Avalanche can sign him to a long contract and he becomes a corner-stone defender, this trade will have been a success. It is too early to tell what will develop between the Avalanche and Zadorov but they now have a man who could be a number one shut down defenceman. The Avalanche have built a solid group of forwards and Zadorov is a large piece that has been added to the back-end.