By Michael C. O’DonnellPublished Dec 11, 2017 12:25AMBRYAN, Wash.
— The Buffalo Sabres’ first-round draft pick is not on a plane to the United States to play in the World Cup of Hockey.
He’s in town to play a game.
The Buffalo Bulls are hosting a game in Rochester.
And the Sabres are in the midst of a season-ending rebuild that will see them lose four starters.
It’s not quite what fans were expecting when they drafted forward Nikita Zadorov last month.
He came in at No. 14, a pick that had them wondering if the Sabres were trying to move up in the draft.
The Sabres’ general manager, Tim Murray, was confident the young player could be the next Connor McDavid and that the team would be successful.
The first-rounder has been skating with the team for several weeks, but hasn’t been able to make the trip.
The Sabres’ top prospect, Jack Eichel, will miss the next two months of the season.
Zadorov has not been able, at least for now, to play with the Sabres.
He has not skated with the U.S. Under-18 team.
The team, though, said that would change in the coming weeks.
Zborov has been on the ice with the squad during a training camp scrimmage, and Murray said they were impressed with the Russian’s play.
He said the player was ready to be the No. 1 goalie for the Sabres when they picked him.
Murray said the Sabres’ rebuild is about two things: playing and winning.
Murray also said Zborov’s future with the organization is uncertain.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Russian was a top prospect at the 2016 U-18 World Junior Championship and had a strong camp in Buffalo.
He will need to prove he can be an effective NHL goaltender.
Zbigniew Kulikov/USA TODAY Sports Zborova will be a good player in the NHLZborova has played for Russia’s top junior team.
He was the top scorer in the Russia World Cup, scoring seven goals and adding four assists.
Zoborov is the younger brother of Ilya, who has won two Russian World Cup gold medals and two silver medals at the Olympics.
Zhorinov scored 19 goals and 30 points in 44 games for Russia at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.