Nikita Zaitsev
Nikita Zaitsev
27-Year-Old DefensemanD
Ottawa Senators
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Zaitsev arrives in Ottawa with much promise, but considerable doubt. He moves from a top-four role with the Leafs into a top-pairing position for the Sens. The 27-year-old isn't a great shutdown guy, which is the role he was asked to play for the Leafs during the last two seasons. As a result of that ill-fitting assignment, Zaitsev's possession numbers took a downturn over the past two campaigns, and he was a liability at times. He did, however, put up 36 points in his rookie year when he saw time on the power play. Ottawa is the one place where he might be able to put the last two years behind him and pick up where he left off following that promising rookie year. Draft cautiously, though, because you'll need to be sure of his role before taking a late-round gamble. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a seven-year, $31.5 million contract extension with the Maple Leafs in May of 2017. Traded to the Canadiens in July of 2019.
Switching Canadian teams
DOttawa Senators
July 1, 2019
Zaitsev was acquired by the Senators from the Maple Leafs, along with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone, in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 third-round pick.
ANALYSIS
Zaitsev made it very clear he was not happy with his situation in Toronto and was looking for a way out. The blueliner has failed to live up to expectations after putting up 36 points in his rookie campaign, having missed the 20-point mark in each of his previous two seasons. In Ottawa, the 26-year-old will have an opportunity to be a top-pairing guy on the blue line and should see minutes on the power play. If he can capitalize on the change of scenery, the Russian could get back to being a 30-plus point producer.
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2019–20 Time On Ice Stats
  • Average Time On Ice:
    23:44
  • Average Power Play TOI:
    0:03
  • Average Short-Handed TOI:
    3:39
 
Ice Time
Power Play
Short-Handed
2017–18
22:13
0:14
2:57
2018–19
20:28
0:04
2:51
2019–20
23:44
0:03
3:39
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2018
2017
2016
Zaitsev's production with the Leafs plummeted in 2017-18 and that made his queasy defensive abilities feel like a season-long stomach flu. Zaitsev had the worst relative Corsi on the entire team. Furthermore, his 13 points in 60 games paled beside his 36-point rookie year. Zaitsev wasn't the only defensive liability on the Leafs squad, but he was the one who became the focus of negative fans. Just Google his name and you'll see that every other article and comment screams, ‘trade the bum!” Expect an offensive rebound for the beleaguered right-shooting defender, but it won't be huge, as Zaitsev isn't likely to get much power-play time. While his defense is unlikely to improve, he will be among the top four unless the team adds some serious strength on its blue line. We guess there's some value in that, if only in really deep formats.
Zaitsev was a revelation in 2016-17. His 36 points were the third best rookie scoring total among rearguards behind only Zach Werenski (47) and Brady Skjei (39), and he averaged a remarkable 22 minutes per game in the Buds' top four. Zaitsev's skating is strong, so he was often sent over the boards to deal with the opponent's best, so he was run down by the time the Leafs were done. Zaitsev headed back home to Russia this summer with a few goals in mind -- getting bigger and stronger, building on his skating and improving his shot. His new seven-year contract extension ($4.5 million per season) means he's a big part of the Leafs' future, and we expect a jump in his production this season, including on the power play. Best of all, Zaitsev's return-on-investment should be high given his expected lower draft position.
Zaitsev is a silky-smooth, two-time KHL All-Star who controls the game from the back end using great skating and excellent poise. He's not physical, but he's good with his stick, breaking up plays with body positioning and angling. Zaitsev has a good shot and can walk the line on the power play, and he's a coveted right shot. He has the potential to be a top-four defender in time if he can adjust to the physicality of playing on the smaller NHL ice. Zaitsev's KHL experience will give him a leg up on several guys in training camp and he might even start the season as the team's No. 4 defender. He will struggle at times – he just moved halfway around the world to one of North America's biggest cities, just to play hockey. But Zaitsev could be a 20-minute, 35-to-40 point defender in a few short years.
More Fantasy News
On trade block
DToronto Maple Leafs
May 30, 2019
The Maple Leafs and Zaitsev are working together to "find him a fresh start," Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports.
ANALYSIS
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Returns to practice Monday
DToronto Maple Leafs
April 8, 2019
Zaitsev (rest) was back at practice Monday preparing for Game 1 versus Boston on Thursday, Paul Hendrick of the Maple Leafs' official site reports.
ANALYSIS
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Will sit finale
DToronto Maple Leafs
Rest
April 6, 2019
Zaitsev will not play in Saturday's regular-season finale against the Canadiens, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic reports.
ANALYSIS
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Killing penalties, not scoring
DToronto Maple Leafs
March 7, 2019
Zaitsev has two points in his last 13 games.
ANALYSIS
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Practices with Muzzin on Wednesday
DToronto Maple Leafs
February 13, 2019
Zaitsev skated with Jake Muzzin at practice on Wednesday.
ANALYSIS
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