Nikita Zaitsev

Hometown:

Moscow Russia

Currently Playing In:

Pro

Birthday:

1991-10-29

Position:

D

Eligible for draft:

2010

Shoots:

Right

Drafted:

Height:

6-2

Acquired:

Signed as free agent, 2016

Weight:

195 lbs.

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History

2008-09: Nikita Zaitsev skated for the Soviet Wings men’s team in Russia’s second division as a 17-year-old and played for Russia in the 2009 U18 World Junior Championship. He scored 6 goals with 12 assists and was -4 with 24 penalty minutes in 31 regular season games and was -1 with no points and 2 penalty minutes in three playoff games for the Wings. Zaitsev scored 1 goal with 4 assists and was +7 with 14 penalty minutes in seven games at the WJC. Russia won a silver medal, falling 5-1 to host USA in the championship game. Zaitsev was the fourth player taken in the inaugural KHL Draft, by Sibir Novosibirsk.

2009-10: Zaitsev made his KHL debut with Siber Novosibirsk — skating in 40 regular season games — and played four games for the club’s junior team. He competed for the Russia U20 team at the 2010 World Junior Championship. Zaitsev had 1 assist and was -10 with 6 penalty minutes playing in the KHL. Siber finished fourth in the Chernyshev Division, missing the KHL playoffs. Zaitsev was +2 with 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes in four MHL junior games. He was +1 with no points and 4 penalty minutes in six games at the WJC. Russia lost just once in round-robin play but finished sixth, falling 4-3 to Finland in the fifth-place game.

2010-11: Zaitsev played in 39 regular season games and four playoff contests for Sibir Novosibirsk in his second KHL season and was part of the Russia U20 team that won a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo. He was +5 with 2 assists and 12 minutes in the regular season and was -4 with 2 penalty minutes in four playoff games. Novosibirsk finished third in the Chernyshev Division and was swept by Ufa Salavat in a first-round series. Zaitsev was -2 with no points nor penalties in six games playing for a dominant Russia U20 team with forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov (TB) and Vladimir Tarasenko (STL). Russia defeated Canada, 5-3, in the gold medal game. Zaitsev was ranked 43rd amongst international skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings but was not selected in the 2011 NHL Draft.

2011-12: Zaitsev averaged over 17 minutes of ice time per game in his third season with Novosibirsk, seeing an increased role on a club that finished last in its division. He scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was +4 with 28 penalty minutes in 53 games.

2012-13: Zaitsev returned to Novosibirsk for his fourth season, dispelling off-season rumors that he would sign with CSKA Moscow. He also played for the Russia national team for the first time, skating in two Europe Trophy games and three games at the 2013 World Championship. Zaitsev scored 7 goals with 11 assists and was -7 with 41 penalty minutes in 49 regular season games for Sibir, averaging 24 minutes of ice time. He was -4 with 1 goal and 8 penalty minutes in seven playoff games as fourth-place Novosibirsk lost to Chernyshev Division regular season champion in a seven-game series. Zaitsev was +1 with no points nor penalties during the Europe Trophy and scored 1 goal, finishing +1 at the World Championship.

2013-14: Zaitsev signed a free agent contract with CSKA Moscow in the off-season. He skated in 33 regular season games, missing time due to injury, and scored 4 goals with 8 assists. Zaitsev was +1 with 18 penalty minutes and averaged 23 minutes of ice time. CSKA finished fifth in the Bobrov Division and was swept by SKA St. Petersburg in a first-round series. Zaitsev scored 1 goal with 1 assist and had an even plus/minus with 27 penalty minutes in four playoff games. He played for Russia in the Europe Trophy and Spengler Cup tournaments, finishing with no points and 2 penalty minutes in 11 games.

2014-15: Zaitsev was one of the top defensemen in the KHL in his second season with CSKA, fueling rumors that he would sign an NHL contract. In 57 regular season games he scored 12 goals with 20 assists and was +27 with 31 penalty minutes, averaging 20:38 minutes of ice time. CSKA finished first in the Tarasov Division, reaching the Western Conference finals in the playoffs. Zaitsev scored 1 goal with 7 assists and was +6 with 8 penalty minutes in 16 playoff games. In three Europe Trophy games with Russia he had an even plus/minus with no points nor penalties.

2015-16: Zaitsev was an assistant captain in his third season with CSKA Moscow and was among the leading scorers amongst KHL defensemen despite missing 14 games with an undisclosed injury. He scored 8 goals with 18 assists and was +21 with 20 penalty minutes in 46 regular season games, averaging 21 minutes of ice time. CSKA finished first in the Tarasov Division, winning the Western Conference championship before falling to Magnitogorsk Metallurg in the Gagarin Cup finals. Zaitsev scored 4 goals with 9 assists and was +7 with 10 penalty minutes in 20 playoff games, averaging 22:32 minutes of ice time. He was selected to play for host Russia in the 2016 World Championship. Zaitsev signed a one-year contract with Toronto as an undrafted free agent in May 2016.

Talent Analysis

Zaitsev is a seasoned, experienced defenseman who has steadily developed playing in Russia. A skilled puck mover who plays a strong positional game, he may need time to adapt to the more physical nature and the smaller rinks in North America.

Future

Zaitsev was one of the top defensemen in the KHL playing for CSKA Moscow in 2015-16. Long-rumored to be making overtures to one day playing in the NHL, he was finally signed to a contract by Toronto in May 2016. Part of the dominant Russia U20 team that featured Artemi Panarin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Vladimir Tarasenko, he has long had high expectations — if he was interested in making the jump to North America.

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