March 1st, 2024

New system, teammates: Nikita Zadorov adjusting to life after a month as a Canuck

By Nick Wells, The Canadian Press on December 27, 2023.

Nikita Zadorov has been a Vancouver Canuck for nearly a month and says the adjustment has been smooth. Zadorov, right, checks San Jose Sharks' William Eklund during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – Nikita Zadorov has been a Vancouver Canuck for nearly a month and says the adjustment has been smooth.

Zadorov was a surprising acquisition for the Vancouver Canucks at the end of November, arriving from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2026 third-round pick. He spent parts of three seasons in Alberta before leaving the team.

“It’s always great to come in to a team with really high expectations. The boys were rolling before I got here as well,” said Zadorov, reflecting on the trade.

The change of scenery was welcomed by Zadorov after things soured for him in Calgary.

“Last year was a lot of ups and downs for me. This year wasn’t great for me in Calgary, not what we expected,” he said.

Zadorov requested a trade in mid-November, after Dan Milstein – the defenceman’s agent – took to social media raising concerns about his client’s ice time.

While his ice time has stayed roughly the same on the Canucks, averaging over 18 minutes per game, the move to Vancouver and up the standings has helped.

“Now being on top of the table is cool and you can take pride in it,” Zadorov said.

Consensus at the time of the trade was that the Canucks had underpaid for the six-foot-six blueliner with other teams in desperate need of strengthening on defence.

“We’d been checking around the league and Nikita was a name that was out there,” said Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin. “He’s unique in terms of size and ability to move in today’s game.”

Zadorov has one assist, 13 blocked shots and 17 hits with the Canucks through 11 games.

“I’ve been trying to focus on the defensive side for now,” said Zadorov. “That’s why I think they brought me here as well. I’m not worried about my points or my offensive game while this team is winning.”

He’s finished all but two games in the plus column and sits at plus-three through his 11 games with Vancouver so far.

“There’s a lot of learning points for me because of new players, new teammates, new system, new things the coaches want to see from me,” he said. “It’s only been 11 games but I think I’m progressing every single game.”

Zadorov has been reunited with fellow defensive giant Tyler Myers, who is six-foot-eight, on the Canucks. The pair briefly played together in Buffalo.

“It’s been getting better every game. He’s probably never played with such a big guy before and I’ve never played with such a big guy,” Zadorov said about being reunited with his former Sabres teammate.

Myers laughs about the joke about their respective heights.

“His first year in Buffalo, I was there with him. It’s been a pretty big gap since we’ve been teammates but it’s been going well,” said Myers.

Myers adds that having two larger defencemen means they’re able to use their reach and sticks as an advantage as well as use their bodies to limit forwards along the boards.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet said he’s pleased with Zadarov’s adjustment to the team as the one-month mark approaches, and added there’s more to come.

“He knows there’s another level. He’s played really well for us but for a guy that’s big like that, can skate and shoot, there’s another level for him,” Tocchet said.

Part of that comes from learning a different style of play from Zadorov’s time in Calgary as well as adjusting to new teammates and defensive responsibilities, Tocchet added.

Zadorov is in the final year of a US$3.75 million deal and set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023.

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