Maple Leafs, Flames, Canucks pursuing top Russian prospect

Damien Cox and Elliotte Friedman cover all the NHL’s top headlines including, coach’s challenges, Steven Stamkos and a potential Russian free agent coming next year.

There’s a new prospect coming to town, and teams are already starting to line up to get a look.

Russian defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 22 games with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow this season, and has many NHL clubs excited about his strong two-way game.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Zaitsev’s agent has said the 24-year-old is coming to North America next year.

Several teams — the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks among them — will fly overseas to see him play in a tournament next week. The Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings are also said to have a strong interest in the 24-year-old. Friedman also noted that some teams are already in the process of meeting with him.