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Zadorov says he's learned his lesson
14 2015 . Buffalo News

The Sabres will rely on their prospects to lift them out of last place, which is why one of Tim Murrays most frank exit interviews was with Nikita Zadorov. The 19-year-old defenseman is wondrously talented and woefully immature.

Z has a ways to go in that, and he knows that, Murray said. A big part of our interview and talk was me putting the onus on him to grow up, to get better, to get fitter, to become a man. Well see how that goes.

Murray knows teenagers mess up. The general manager wants Zadorov to understand what youthful mistakes mean in an NHL dressing room.

When you do certain things your teammates lose respect for you, when you do certain things your coaching staff may lose respect for you, Murray said. Young players are going to make mistakes, so its how you handle those mistakes.

While Zadorovs most glaring problem was punctuality he was benched a total of five games for two infractions the issues with maturity go beyond alarm clocks and travel plans.

Heres a kid whos got all the talent in the world, Buffalo defenseman Josh Gorges said. You cant teach his size and skating ability and skill set. I think for him its about developing and maturing, being a professional, doing the little things.

This game, its about helping the guy beside you to do his job easier. That makes you a good player, and that makes you a professional. When he starts to understand that, learn that, I think the skys the limit for him.

Zadorov says he got the messages.

It was tough, he said. I made a couple mistakes this year off the ice, and its all maturity. Im not going to make them anymore.

While erratic, Zadorov showed why he was the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He finished second among Sabres defensemen with 15 points, including 12 assists, while putting up a respectable minus-10 on a team that had a goal differential of minus-113.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has fun away from the ice and never lacks confidence, which drew one more chat about maturity from right wing Patrick Kaleta.

Its how Patty told me one day: Be cocky on the ice but dont be cocky off the ice, Zadorov said. Im a pretty confident guy, and Im just going to bring it next year and do my best.

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