Scouted since: December 2000 (Reports: 68).
Comments: Nikolai is very versatile and feels comfortable playing on both wings. For now he's better suited as winger. Arguments against center position: not a solid face-off man and requires to learn how to position himself in defensive zone while playing C. This season Zherdev has been playing primarily as the RW.
Birth date: November 5, 1984 (Kiev, Ukraine)
Comments: Nikolai is closing on being 6-2 and should grow as high by the draft time. He also should be able to add 5-10 pounds to his current weight.
Already imposing productive force in RSL, Zherdev has superstar potential as offensive-minded forward. Nikolai should become a consistently dangerous attacking force for whatever team he'll play. Multitalented and entertaining to watch, Nik will take NHL fans out of their sits for years to come. It's difficult to compare him with other Russian forwards. He has great smart hands and a rich arsenal of moves and dekes. Zherdev is comparable to young Alexei Yashin, but significantly faster on skates and being more intense and artistic at puckhandling. Nikolai takes care of his defense (not a liability in that regard), but shouldn't be labeled as a two-way player.
Fast and explosive skater. He's not ultra rapid, but his speed is indeed above average. There's still room to improve his straight-away speed by working on his skating technique. At the moment he's keeping his feet a bit too wide while skating straight forward and it tends to disturb his balance. Zherdev possesses excellent stamina: a bit like Alexei Kovalev Nikolai is able to handle long shifts. Superb agility. His balance is solid and will only get better in the years to come. Nikolai's effective enough in the traffic, surprisingly strong on his skates and uses his frame at will to protect the puck, to shade off big defenders and in going to the net.
Shooting: Overall: 7,5 -- Accuracy: 7,0 -- Shot Power: 8,5 -- Release Quickness -- 8,0
Has powerful and somewhat accurate wrist and slap shots. The "somewhat accurate" assessment is due to the fact that Zherdev hits the net nine times out of ten, but mostly of those shots (especially from outside the slot) are low and go straight into the goaltender. Zherdev should work out on hitting the topshelve (Dmitry Khristich had similar problem throughout his NHL career) and the corners more often. Meantime, Nikolai possesses excellent backhand (very quick with effortless release) shot.
Although Zherdev isn't a pure sniper, he likes to shoot and does it a lot. Unfortunately RSL doesn't keep shooting stats. We saw him play in over a dozen of RSL games this season and he averaged close to six shots per game in those(!)
Gradually improving talented playmaker. Excellent on-ice vision enables him to distribute great precise passes. He's very effective at finding line-mates in open slots. But his biggest playmaking asset is an ability to figure out when and where his defender will pitch from the point (Zherdev's very similar in this ability to Alexander Mogilny). Nikolai isn't selfish and his puck overhandling is largely due to young age. Since we begun scouting Zherdev, he has dramatically improved in that regard and has been using his line-mates more and better.
Puck skills / Stickhandling: 9,5
Puckwiz! Excellent and spectacular puckhandler. Able to stickhandle at high speed, as well as in traffic. Uses well his growing reach. His creative puckhandling consistently generates scoring chances. Likes to go one-on-one and is good at it. To stop Zherdev opposing defenders have to take the body out (which isn't easy). Nikolai is strong on the puck and stickhandles with authority (unlike Pavel Bure, for instance, who makes a lot of useless tape moves). Current flaw: occasionally overhandles the puck.
Checking, Defensive abilities: 6,5
Handling defensive chores isn't on top of his priority list (as it wouldn't be for any youngster as gifted as he is). However Nikolai isn't a blue line floater. He pick's up his guy and gives a faire effort in the defensive zone. Likes to goo deep in his own end to get the puck. Particular flaws: Needs to improve his positionning and decision making in defensive zone (has to stop foolish attempts to stickhandle out of it).
Physical involvement: 7,5
Strong enough to win one-on-one battles against RSL's best defenders. He's difficult to toss off the puck possession - in that regard he's quite similar to Alexander Frolov. Doesn't get invovled much in the corners this season (his line-mates do it) but is fairly effective along the boards given the opportunity. Not a hitter, but adept to receiving hits - doesn't get intimidated easily. Doesn't exactly play with an edge, but isn't a softy by any means.
Intensity: 7,5 Competitiveness: 7,5
Good competitor, Zherdev improved his consistency and intensity since joining CSKA. He doesn't disappear from action for long stretches, like he used to while playing in Elektrostal. Not a hustler, his drive is rather a smooth and smart force that explodes from time to time. Zherdev is good at switching gears.
Assuming Zherdev will step in the NHL next season, in our opinion, he'll provide contribution very similar to the one of Vincent Lecavalier's in his rookie season. However if the obstruction crackdown remains, Zherdev will have a fair chance to post superior numbers. Slight danger of being physically overmatched with his style of play exists, as NHL defenders are stronger and more physical than the caliber he has been facing thus far. He should have no trouble adjusting to the smaller rinks and speeding up his decision making.
Superleague: At 18 has been CSKA Moscow's best forward and main attraction for spectators. Ice time: Has been averaging over 18 minutes per game, consistently playing on power play. Rarely if not at all used to kill penalties. At even strength Nikolai has had several different line-mates, but more than often played along side Alexander Polushin (TB), with whom he developed good chemistry. Has been very effective as well during a short stint alongside Vladimir Gorbunov (NYI). Of late Zherdev and Polushin have been playing with veteran Albert Leschev.
U-20 National Team: Zherdev wasn't very productive in two Four Nation tournaments, mainly due to the fact that (U-20 coach) Ishmatov relied on Yuri Trubachev's unit as team's top. Still, Nikolai will be counted heavily upon at the World Junior Tournament.
2002 © Russian Scouting Bureau
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