“Don’t be afraid to scream at me”: Zadorov told Tocchet not to hold back after Canucks trade

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When the Vancouver Canucks acquired Nikita Zadorov in November, few predicted he would have this kind of impact on the team.

One person who may have seen what was to come was head coach Rick Tocchet, thanks to some advance warning.

“I was told by some other people, I’m not going to name them, that you’ll love this guy, so I got some intel early,” explained Tocchet today to the media.

It didn’t take long for the defenceman to make a good impression on the coach.

“The thing with Z, I didn’t know this, like he came up to me I think two weeks in, he goes ‘Hey Tocc, I had Darryl Sutter, so don’t be afraid to scream at me, I can take it,” laughed Tocchet.

The Russian defenceman has become a huge part of the Canucks blue line. He’s third among blueliners on the club in ice time and has five points in seven games during the postseason.

“This is probably the best hockey I’ve seen him play. I think his game suits the playoffs really well because he can bring that physical edge,” said Carson Soucy about his teammate. “I think he’s found a good mix of being physical and jumping in the play.”

He’s scored some massive goals, including the game-tying marker in last night’s huge comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers.

The defence pairing of Zadorov and Ian Cole is the second-best in the entire NHL playoffs (minimum 50 minutes) at limiting expected goals against per MoneyPuck.

Part of the reason why Zadorov has been so successful with the Canucks is his relationship with Tocchet. As the coach described it today, the two have had open dialogue and communication that has allowed them to thrive together.

“One time we scratched him, it was more of a maintenance thing, and he was pissed about it. We had a great talk for about half an hour. I thought that was a big key — the way he turned his whole game around. He was good, but he’s taken it to another level.”

“He didn’t like it. I’m not going to share exactly what was said, but he was awesome in the meeting. It helped me understand him.”

The 29-year-old makes as large an impact off the ice as he does on it. He’s quickly become a leader in the dressing room.

“He’s a guy that’s not afraid to speak his mind, and he integrates with everyone,” continued Tocchet. “He’s probably the first guy guys call to go get dinner. He’s one of those guys, and he lightens the mood on the bench.”

The Canucks are going to need Zadorov to keep playing at the level he has to limit an explosive Oilers team. If Game 1 is a sign of what’s to come, fans are going to be very happy with the ferocious defenceman.