Who is Nikita Zaytsev?

The Flyers don’t have a selection until the 89th  pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft on June 25-26 in Los Angeles.  But that’s not keeping them from window shopping.

According to European sources, the Flyers, along with the Chicago Blackhawks, have shown noticeable interest in Russian defenseman Nikita Zaytsev.

“My favorite interviews were the ones with Philadelphia and Chicago,” Zaytsev said pertaining to his draft combine meetings,” because these teams were interested in me a lot.”

Zaytsev, the lesser known Novosibirsk teammate of highly-touted prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, is an agile and strong defenseman with a highly coveted right-handed shot.  Scouting reports have stated that he is still a bit raw as a two-way blue-liner and struggles with positioning at times, but possesses decent size (6-foot-1, 176 lbs.) along with excellent hockey smarts and unrefined skill.

Unlike many of the Russians entering the draft, Zaytsev is bilingual in both English and Russian (he helped translate for other Russian prospects at the draft combine) and has made it clear that his dream is to play in the NHL.

The 18-year-old was a late invite to the draft combine at the end of May, but that didn’t keep him from testing high.  He ranked third and sixth in both the ‘4 Jump (Mat) Mode’  ground time and power and also ranked sixth in 150 lbs. bench press reps with 16 and third in the bench press body weight with 14.  He landed second in the entire combine in body weight push strength with 1.76.

One may ask — if this kid is so good, how can a team with the 89th selection expect that he will fall to them?

Aside from the Flyers being able to possibly slide up in the draft and snag him in the early third maybe late second round, Zaytsev is still a bit of a dark horse with raw skill.  But more importantly — he is Russian. And that means a lot, especially in this draft.

Loaded with top-end Russian talent, not unlike the 2009 draft and it’s Swedish influence, the plethora of Russians could cause some with late first-round, early second upside to slide into the deep second round or later.  Throw in the fact that Russian players playing in the KHL have a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads, and anything is possible.

Zaytsev is the 13th ranked European skater by Central Scouting, behind three other defensemen.  He was not ranked in the top-100 draft prospects by The Hockey News.

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