The Chicago Blackhawks have never been that physical team in the NHL. Luckily Nikita Zadorov can provide a physical brand of hockey for the team.
Nikita Zadorov is not afraid to use his body on the ice. The new addition to the Chicago Blackhawks is 6’5″ and can provide the Blackhawks with something they have not had on the ice in a long time.
Zadorov is the tallest player the Blackhawks have had the past few years. While Connor Murphy is just an inch shorter at 6’4″, he does not use his body as often. Throughout the first seven years of his career spanning 444 NHL games, Murphy is averaging 2.12 hits per game (942 hits in 444 games). Zadorov, on the other hand, has played in 356 games so far in his career and has 2.94 hits per game (1046 hits in 356 games).
Both players are great defensively, but Zadorov is just a step above when it comes to using his body and making other teams pay a price. It always frustrated me when the Blackhawks would allow their opponent to take the puck down below their net and circle around the ice without even getting touched by our team. Zadorov has dished out some pretty big hits in the past.
While the Blackhawks have always been great systematically on defense throughout their championship years, they never really played that physical brand of hockey in their own end. Zadorov can hopefully change the game for the Blackhawks as well as opening the door for his linemate.
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Pairing Nikita Zadorov with a guy like Adam Boqvist or Ian Mitchell should allow the Blackhawks young stars to move around freely on the ice without having to worry about getting hit as often thanks to Zadorov being out there to keep the temperature down.
Boqvist and Keith were a great pairing this past season, but Boqvist did get hit occasionally throughout the year. Pairing him with a bigger physical defenseman might allow Boqvist to take the next step in his development, and it could open the door for Keith to get a new defensive partner.
Even the Blackhawks coaching staff has a lot of good things to say about Nikita Zadorov. Hopefully, this new player in the Blackhawks locker room will let Jeremy Colliton change his system defensively and limit the opposing team’s scoring opportunities.