It's been a disappointing ride for Nikita Zadorov this past year. Traded at the draft to a team he expected to play 82 games with as a future cornerstone defenseman, only to be sent down to the AHL Rampage a month later due to some clear holes in his play, and according to many in the media, to send a message of humility. Recalled along with other promising defenseman Chris Bigras when Erik Johnson went down with his knee injury, then reassigned again 5 games later, while Bigras stayed. Stuck in San Antonio during that team's absolutely desolate stretches, and finally recalled again in March, when the Wild tried their best to back out of a playoff spot, only for the hapless Avalanche to say, no no, we insist, you take it.
MHH Survey Grade: 69.1%
While Zadorov personally could only manage 2 assists in his 22 games at the NHL level, he was a moderately impactful player in the shooting stats. His relative CF% (score/venue adjusted) was the best on the blueline at +3%, driven primarily by his -8.3 relative CA/60, which translates in English roughly to "he stops his team facing so many shots" on an Avalanche team sorely in need of exactly that. He may also have run up against the bad side of luck, as his team only shot 6.1% with him on the ice. Only Bigras was on ice for a worse shooting percentage (5.1%).
In my opinion, and I know many people do echo this, specifically the second reassignment to San Antonio (if not both) was a mistake. Early January's Andrew Bodnarchuk claim did limit how much roster flexibility the Avalanche had, and not many of us would argue against keeping Chris Bigras up to play out the season. But the team would have benefited from both, and so would have General Zad himself. Bouncing between rosters may have played a role in his inability to develop a consistency to his game, as well as motivating his occasional Ryan Wilson "I will now hit you despite it taking me way out of position" moments. You don't see strong, stable shot suppression like you see a big hit on a star forward. You don't remember a well-supported breakout like you remember a stretch pass that turns into a goal for your team.
So with these things in mind my own grade for Zadorov would be about 5 points higher than this. That his season was marred by inconsistency on the ice is to be expected of a guy who's still not played a full NHL season yet. Moving him between leagues 4 times in total made it that much tougher for him to get that consistency and focus on long term results he, and all of us, are looking for. The best thing for both him and the team next season should be an 82-game NHL season for Z. Hopefully, the team uses this summer to cut some of the excess fat out of his way on the roster.