Nikita Zaitsev


Moscow Russia

Currently Playing In:






Eligible for draft:








Signed as free agent, 2016


195 lbs.

<<<<<<< Updated upstream

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.


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.

KHL 2010-11 season preview

by Alessandro Seren Rosso

It was probably the summer of SKA St. Petersburg, who signed two solid NHL players in Evgeny Nabokov and Maxim Afinogenov, to long-term contracts. They also lured back home defenseman Denis Grebeshkov. Spartak replied to the Nabokov’s signing ensuring the services of Dominik Hasek. Despite his age, the Dominator is still in good shape. Other interesting signings are the return of Alexander Perezhogin to Avangard, the signing of Brock Trotter by Dinamo Riga and Ak Bars’ acquisition of Marcel Hossa, who built for himself a very solid European career after his attempt to secure an NHL spot with the Canadiens and the Rangers. On the other hand many young players moved from Russia to America, and this includes not only established prospects like Alexander Avtsin (MTL), but also some 2011 eligible like Alexander Khokhlachev.

After the problems of HC Lev from Slovakia in joining the league, the KHL will have 23 teams for the 2010-11 season. One of the highlights of the season in this aspect was the merging of HC MVD, last season’s runner-ups, and the historical team Dynamo Moscow.

Below is a team-by-team breakdown and analysis of the different prospects:

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Top 10 Russia prospects for 2010

by Alessandro Seren Rosso

In spite of the recent lack of success with the different national teams, Russia keeps on producing good players and the 2010 class looks like a particularly good one after the disappointment of 2009 when only seven Russian prospects were drafted. The 2010 class looks good for Russia also as far as the quality of the those already overseas, like Kirill Kabanov, Stanislav Galiev and Ivan Telegin.

Top 10 at a glance
1.    Vladimir Tarasenko, F, Sibir Novosibirsk
2.    Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, Traktor Chelyabinsk
3.    Maxim Kitsyn, F, Metallurg Novokuznetsk
4.    Nikita Zaitsev, D, Sibir Novosibirsk
5.    Alexei Marchenko, D, CSKA Moscow
6.    Sergei Barbashev, F, CSKA Moscow
7.    Alexander Gogolev, F, Spartak Moscow
8.    Pavel Kulikov, F, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk
9.    Nikita Gusev, F, CSKA Moscow Read more»

2010 WJC: Team Russia preview

by Alessandro Seren Rosso


After the two straight bronze medals in 2008 and 2009, Team Russia will try to climb up the standings in Saskatchewan, presenting a very young team. Vladimir Plyuschev, who is back with U-20 Team Russia after the WJC triumph in 2002, decided to rely a lot on 1991-born guys, the same players who made the core of the Under-18 national team he coached in the U18 WC in the United States this April. Another reason for the youth is that Team Russia will lack some key players: center Andrei Loktionov (LA) is injured, while Evgeny Grachev (NYR), Vyacheslav Voinov (LA) and Dmitry Kulikov (FLA) weren’t released by their respective NHL franchises.

Russia’s only exhibition game hasn’t been good as they lost 3-2 to Latvia after an overtime.


After Semyon Varlamov’s move to the NHL, Team Russia’s goaltending hasn’t been as good and reliable. In last season’s tournament, projected starter Daniil Alistratov lost the job after an awful performance against Team Sweden in favor of Read more»

Prospects to watch in the KHL: 2009-10

by Alessandro Seren Rosso

After the first-ever KHL season ended with the Ak Bars Kazan’s triumph, a new season is going to kick off soon in Russia. Once again it has been a busy summer as many movements have been controversially in place from Russia to America (Kirill Kabanov) or the other way around (Jiri Hudler). The movement from the RSL of old to the new KHL has definitely been a good step forward for hockey not only in Russia, but also for the post-soviet countries who have teams in the league. The good performances by Latvia and Belarus in the last WC and Kazakhstan’s promotion to the elite level are examples of this.

The KHL will be once again have 24 teams, with Avtomobilist Ekaterinburg instead of Khimik Voskresensk, out for financial reasons. Lada Togliatti and Vityaz Chekhov have been in danger as well, but they found last-minute sponsors who allowed them to ice a team this season. Differently from the last season, the league has been split into Eastern and Western Conference and thus the divisions have a geographical alignment.

Below is a team-by-team breakdown analyzing the different prospects’ chances.


Bobrov Division

CSKA Moscow
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Team Russia U18 World Championships review

by Alessandro Seren Rosso

Despite icing a roster that didn’t blow anyone away, Team Russia finished the U18 World Championships with a silver medal, losing to Team USA in the final.

“In general, only a few people believed that we would reach the finals," said the tournament’s All-Star Team forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who was arguably Russia‘s top player and one of the best overall in the tournament. "They said that Russia could reach only fifth or sixth place. But I think that we proved that we are a good team. We gave a good reply to all those who didn’t believe in us. Yes, we were tired by the final match, but we have an united team with no separations like first, second-class players.”

If the Russians clinched the second silver medal in a row after last year’s on home soil, it means the players on the roster played with good focus and good motivation given by coach Vladimir Plyuschev.
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