05
Apr
11

Alexei Zhitnik

Full name: Alexei Nikolaevich Zhitnik
Last Team: Dynamo Moscow (KHL)

Number: 77
Position: Defenceman
Height: 5’11”/180 cm
Weight: 225 lbs/100 kg
Shoots: Left
Born: October 10, 1972 in Kiev, UKR
Drafted: Selected by the Los Angeles Kings in 4th round (81st overall) of the 1991 Entry Draft

Strengths: Zhitnik was one of the best all-around defencemen of the last two decades. He had great mobility on the ice and usually played against the opposing teams’ top lines. Zhitnik was also a good playmaker and point man on the powerplay.

Weaknesses: Zhitnik’s speed, physical play and defensive reliability had been declining in his last few seasons. When attacking, he was prone to making risky plays leading to turnovers.

Biography: Born in Kiev, Zhitnik developed into a hockey player with the Sokol sports club. At age 18, he drew attention from the NHL due to his speed and strength (Zhitnik was nicknamed “elephant” because of his powerful legs) and was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. Like the majority of especially talented and promising young hockey players in the Soviet Union, Alexei was transferred to the Central Red Army team in Moscow. He played well enough to play not only at the 1992 World Junior Championship, but also at the Olympics in the same year. At both tournaments, Russia (or CIS, as it was known then) won gold. In the summer of that year, Zhitnik made the shocking transition from Russian life, where foreign jeans were a luxury, to sunny southern California. In his first season in the NHL, Alexei’s team (led by superstar Wayne Gretzky) made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final, but lost to the Montreal Canadiens. After another season and a half in L.A., Zhitnik was traded to the Sabres. He continued to be involved with the national team, being called to represent Russia at the 1996 World Championship (where he was named the tournament’s best defenceman), the 1996 World Cup, and the 1998 Olympics (where Russia won silver). In Buffalo, Zhitnik was one the pillars of the Sabres’ rise in the late 1990s. Alexei once again came short of being a Stanley Cup champion when the Sabres lost to the Dallas Stars in the 1999 playoff finals. In 1999 and 2002, he was invited to play at the NHL All-Star Game. Zhitnik joined fellow stars Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexei Kovalev and Nikolai Khabibulin in playing for Ak Bars Kazan during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. He did not return to the Sabres when the NHL resumed, signing instead with the New York Islanders. Although he was still a reliable minute-eating defenceman, Zhitnik was traded twice in the 2006-07 season, moving from the Islanders to the Flyers to the Thrashers. In 2007, when he was a Flyer, Zhitnik became the first Soviet-born defenseman to play 1000 games in the NHL. In 2008, Atlanta bought out the remaining year of his contract and Alexei returned to Russia to play for Moscow Dynamo. That year, Zhitnik played for the national team for the first time in eight years, captaining Russia at the Karjala Cup tournament of the Euro Hockey Tour. He was named captain of Dynamo for the 2009-10 season. This was Zhitnik’s last season of playing hockey.

Club Stats:

Season Team GP G A PTS +/- PIM
1989-90 Sokol Kiev 31 3 4 7 16
1990-91 Sokol Kiev 46 1 4 5 46
1991-92 CSKA Moscow 44 2 7 9 52
1992-93 Los Angeles 78 12 36 48 -3 80
1993-94 Los Angeles 81 12 40 52 -11 101
1994-95 Los Angeles/Buffalo 32 4 10 14 -6 61
1995-96 Buffalo 80 6 30 36 -25 58
1996-97 Buffalo 80 7 28 35 +10 95
1997-98 Buffalo 78 15 30 45 +19 102
1998-99 Buffalo 81 7 26 33 -6 96
1999-00 Buffalo 74 2 11 13 -6 95
2000-01 Buffalo 78 8 29 37 -3 75
2001-02 Buffalo 82 1 33 34 -1 80
2002-03 Buffalo 70 3 18 21 -5 85
2003-04 Buffalo 68 4 24 28 -13 102
2004-05 Ak Bars Kazan 23 1 8 9 30
2005-06 N.Y. Islanders 59 5 24 29 +4 88
2006-07 N.Y.I./Philadelphia/Atlanta 79 7 31 38 +1 92
2007-08 Atlanta 83 5 17 22 -4 72
2008-09 Dynamo Moscow 56 4 12 16 0 58
2009-10 Dynamo Moscow 56 0 7 7 +2 60
Totals USSR/RHL/KHL Reg. Season 256 11 42 53 262
Totals RHL/KHL Playoffs 16 1 2 3 24
Totals NHL Reg. Season 1085 96 375 471 -53 1268
Totals NHL Playoffs 98 9 30 39 -33 168

National Team Stats:

Year Tournament GP G A PTS PIM
1990 European U18 6 2 2 4 2
1991 World U20 7 1 1 2 2
1991 Canada Cup 5 0 0 0 4
1992 World U20 7 1 1 2 2
1992 Olympic Games 8 1 0 1 0
1992 World Championship 6 0 2 2 6
1994 World Championship 6 1 2 1 8
1996 World Championship 8 1 1 2 6
1996 World Cup 3 0 1 1 2
1998 Olympic Games 6 0 2 2 2
2000 World Championship 6 0 1 1 2
Totals U18 Level 6 2 2 4 2
Totals U20 Level 14 2 2 4 4
Totals Senior Level 48 3 9 12 30

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