Members of the Blackhawks weren't thrilled to see two-time Stanley Cup champ Brandon Saad leave the Windy City once again in a trade, but they're pretty jazzed up about one of the returns from the four-player deal with the Colorado Avalanche: Nikita Zadorov.
Zadorov, 25, is a 6'6 defenseman who led the NHL in hits for the 2017-18 campaign. The big blueliner, who had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 64 games with the Avalanche last season and recorded a +/- rating of +6, has already impressed just two days into camp after moving incredibly well for his size and pushing players like Patrick Kane off the puck.
"I think in-season he definitely gives that toughness element on top of just his size and he moves really well," Hawks defenseman Connor Murphy, entering his fourth season with Chicago, said. "He can shut plays down with his stick, and if he can get an arm on a guy he'll stop him in his tracks, that parts big.
"Just in a game when things can escalate or you're playing against some bigger teams in the [Central division] whoever we're playing against, some bigger heavier teams, a guy like that seems to settle the other team down knowing that he's going to be there to not let them either push around some of our guys or whatever the circumstance of the game is, even around our net and around our goalies with rebounds and scrums even after the whistle. That part is a little part of the game that goes a long way [through] the course of a season, in a game where you're on the road, you feel like you're getting physically outworked, you got a guy like that to really settle the team down."
Three-time Stanley Cup champ Duncan Keith, who's getting ready to play his 16th season with the Blackhawks, also sees Zadorov forcing the opponent to cut back with the rough stuff.
"He's a big guy, so he definitely has a presence out there just with his size alone. He's physical, he was able to bring a lot of physicality to Colorado over the years, so you're definitely aware of him when he's on the ice. That's something we haven't really had on our team in a long time."
Keith also notes aside from cooling down the opposition, a player like Zadorov can impact the flow of a contest.
"I think having him back there is definitely a nice feeling knowing that we do have that size when we need it, we can throw some body checks and switch the momentum of the game."