Born and raised in Yaorslavl, Russia, Vitali Anikeyenko has continued to develop steadily with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s organization. The Ottawa Senators 70th overall pick (3rd round) in 2005 has yet to appear in North America, but he has become a solid defenseman in the Russian Super League, arguably the next best league after the NHL. Anikeyenko has yet to sign with the Senators and it’s unknown whether or not he plans to leave the comfort of home where he has spent his entire career.
2002-03: Anikeyenko joined Lokomotiv for the junior league finals, appearing in five games and scoring once. He also logged 22 minutes in penalties. Anikeyenko was also part of Russia’s U18 squad. In 6 matches, Anikeyenko was held off the scoresheet, but was an impressive +4.
2003-04: Moving on to Russia’s 1st League, Anikeyenko spent the entire season with Lokomotiv 2. In 40 games, he tallied 11 points and 68 penalty minutes. He continued to be a strong defensive presence finishing with a +13 rating. In the playoffs, Anikeyenko played in 24 games, registering 6 assists and 50 penalty minutes. He was a solid +11.
2004-05: Anikeyenko spent the season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s junior farm club Lokomotiv 2. The young defenseman finished with 14 points and 62 penalty minutes in 58 games. He was once again a mainstay for Russia in tournament play, his best performance coming at the 2005 U18 WCs where he posted 2 points and 12 penalty minutes in 6 games.
2005-06: In previous years, Anikeyenko had failed to step up and take a spot in the Super League club’s lineup. Finally, in 2005-06, he made his mark. In 26 matches with Yaroslavl in the RSL, Anikeyenko played a depth defensive role. He picked up one assist, a +2 rating, and 28 penalty minutes in 26 games.
2006-07: Still with Yaroslavl, Anikeyeko’s role increased and he finished with 4 points and 16 penalty minutes in 25 games. His -6 rating was somewhat alarming considering Yaroslavl was a strong team, finishing eighth in goals against. Anikeyenko was also part of Russia’s silver medal team at the WJCs. He picked up one assist, 10 penalty minutes, and was a +6 in 6 games.
2007-08: Another season with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (RSL) resulted in four goals and 13 points through 40 games. 16 postseason games yielded no points for the third straight season.
2008-09: Anikeyenko continues to play in Russia, staying within the Yaroslavl system. In 40 games with the Lokomotiv this season, he tallied a pair of goals and 11 points, adding another two assists in 19 playoff games (the first postseason points of his career).
2009-10: The blueliner continues to stay in Russia, putting up 18 points in 52 games.
2011-12: Anikeyenko tragically perished in an airplane crash with fellow Lokomotiv Yaraslavl teammates on September 7th, 2011.
Anikeyenko is a towering defenseman with great size and some skill, but a limited overall upside. He is a capable skater for someone his size, but he lacks acceleration and overall foot speed. He possesses a hard shot from the blue line, essentially all he has to offer in the offensive zone. An average puckhandler with great reach and slightly above average hockey sense, Anikeyenko tends to make safe decisions with the puck, usually only making short, safe passes. He works very hard in his own end of the ice, but needs to become more aggressive and use his body better. For a player with his size and potential strength, he doesn’t play a very physical brand of hockey.
Anikeyenko remains in Russia. It appears that he has no intention of playing in North America.