This has not been a banner campaign for Nikita Zadorov, yet his spirits remain intact.
Zadorov, the 16th overall pick at the 2013 draft, is averaging just over 17 minutes per game through 17 contests, with no goals and just two points (and a minus-6 rating).
That resulted in Avs head coach Jared Bednar healthy scratching Zadorov for win in Minnesota over the weekend, then easing the young Russian d-man back in during Monday’s OT win in Columbus (Zadorov played just 16:21, only Patrick Wiercioch played less among d-men).
“I had good talks with everybody in the organization, all the head guys,” Zadorov said, per the Denver Post. “It’s not fun to be in the stands but it’s a learning process. You forget about it, come back and refresh. Mentally, some players lose their confidence when (you’re scratched).
“I had kind of a bumpy first period last game, but second period I got my game back. My confidence is still really high and I feel good.”
Zadorov has been something of a disappointment since coming over from Buffalo in the Ryan O'Reilly blockbuster. He appeared in just 22 games last year, spending most of his time in AHL San Antonio, but did fare well with the Rampage — 10 goals and 29 points in 52 games.
Sometimes, it’s hard to forget Zadorov is still only 21 years old. That’s what happens when you debut as an 18-year-old, play 60 games as a 19-year-old and are considered one of the keys of a noteworthy trade. He’s still third among d-men in his draft class in terms of games played — only Seth Jones and ex-Sabres running mate Rasmus Ristolainen have more — and a few other ’13 first-rounders are looking to find their way, too (Mirco Mueller, Shea Theodore, Josh Morrissey, Ryan Pulock, etc.)
Of course, the Avs might not have the patience right now to watch a young defenseman learn on the job. From Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in his latest 30 Thoughts column:
American Thanksgiving is another critical point on the NHL calendar. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams, 78 per cent of those in playoff positions as of that date reach the playoffs. As a result, teams have a better idea of what they are and what they need.
Some of the wishes are obvious. Colorado and Detroit are looking for defencemen that can make a difference, although it’s not as if you can grow them in Toews’ garden. (The Avalanche are looking for more than one, likely two.)