Nikita Zaitsev







                                                                        Nikita Zaitsev, D

Shoots: R

Height: 6-2

Weight: 196

Born: 1991-10-29

Hometown:  Moscow, RUS

Drafted: Undrafted


December 2017 – It was a pleasant surprise how quickly Zaitsev adapted to the NHL game last season; so much so that Leafs signed him for seven years at 4.5 million. The 26-year-old defenceman is now a top pairing defender that gets assignments against other team's top players while also killing penalties. Despite not getting any power play time, he still has four goals and six assists in this season so far. He just went down with an injury and he will definitely be missed. Brian Harling

October 2016 – Thanks in part to an early injury to Matt Hunwick, Zaitsev found stride in his first game with 24 minutes of action. I’ve been sitting on the fence with expectations from the Russian defender, but he has been little less than ‘very’ impressive. His play with the puck looks rather solid and well beyond his years as displayed by his puck patients that reminds us of the elite Tomas Kaberle years paired with strong skating. According to most European reports I’m privy to he has been hailed strong off the puck, after a few looks through training camp and game one, I can agree his defensive side is his most valuable asset as a player more than a fantasy option and he will get residual production starting rushes after defending his zone first. He has potential to appear on powerplays, but early on the Leafs have elected to use a main, four forward unit with Morgan Rielly. He is locked in to be a top four defender all season, but not a fantasy asset, so manage expectations and use accordingly. Jason Banks


April 2016 – Believed to have bested the Flames, Canucks, Kings, Penguins and Flyers, the Maple Leafs signed the promising Russian free-agent blueliner to a one-year, entry-level contract, fulfilling a four-month-old rumor that Zaitsev planned to play for Toronto. While no NHL team drafted him, Zaitsev was taken fourth overall in the 2009 KHL draft. NHL interest spiked this season when he tied for the most post-season points among KHL defensemen with 13 in 20 playoff games for CSKA Moscow. As assistant captain in his third KHL season, Zaitsev totaled eight goals and 26 points in 46 regular-season games in which he was also plus-21. Those numbers were similar to his previous 57-game campaign in which he registered 12 goals, 32 points and plus-27. Wouldn’t the Leafs love to get those numbers from a new blueliner?

If he can acclimate swiftly to North American life, the 24-year-old two-time KHL all-star could quickly find himself on the right point for the Leafs, helped by his three pro seasons in Russia and extensive international experience. He plays an intelligent two-way game and he has offensive upside, driven by good passing skills and an above-average point shot. Zaitsev could be more physical and add some bulk, but he’s got good NHL size at 6-2 and 196 pounds. Mark Allan


Fantasy Outlook: B-


Zaitsev projects as a possible top-pairing D-man with strong power-play potential.




Taking advantage of a bad line change, Nikita Zaitsev scores a playoff goal all by himself:




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Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
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Max Plante 7.5 4.5
Jack Pridham 6.0 7.0
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Matvei Gridin 8.5 6.5
Dean Letourneau 6.5 7.5
Kamil Bednarik 6.0 8.0
Cole Hutson 9.0 6.0
Luke Osburn 5.5 7.0