Nikitin, 23, has spent the past seven seasons with Omsk Avangard in Russia. In his seven-year career, the 6’3”, 215-pound defenseman has played in 265 games for Omsk totaling 61 points on 13 goals and 48 assists including 219 penalty minutes.
Nikitin was originally drafted by the Blues in the fifth round (136th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Also, Jeremy Rutherford has tweeted that JD has said that Nikitin will attend the Blues Training Camp.
And now JR has more information up at Morning Skate:
The Blues have signed defenseman Nikita Nikitin to an entry-level contract today.
You may have to go back into a time machine to remember Nikitin. He was the Blues’ fifth-round pick (No. 136 overall) in 2004. That was the same year the Blues drafted Marek Schwarz (No. 17), Carl Soderberg (No. 49), Viktor Alexandrov (No. 83) and Michal Birner (No. 116).
Those four players are long gone from the organization, but the 2004 draft could still be remembered for a couple of defensemen. The team took Nikitin in the fifth round and followed up by taking Roman Polak in the sixth round (No. 180)
While everyone is familiar with Polak, Nikitin is an absolute unknown. Now 23, he is listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He has played the last seven years for Omsk Avangard in Russia. In those seven years, he’s played 265 games, posting 13 goals and 48 assists (61 points) with 219 penalty minutes. The past two years, Omsk competed in the KHL.
Blues President John Davidson said that Nikitin will be coming to Blues’ training camp in September.
“Our reports have been very good on him,” Davidson said. “He’s been playing in the best league in Europe. He’s a big kid. It’ll be an adjustment playing on the smaller ice and the language differences, but he’s soundly committed. When you see him first-hand, it makes you feel good about signing him. We’ll see where it takes us.”
One of the benefits of Doug Armstrong working for the Blues for two years before becoming general manager (which takes effect July 1) was the flexibility in his schedule. Armstrong made a trip to Russia to watch Nikitin play.
“He’s tall but he’s very thick,” Armstrong said today. “He makes a good first pass. He’s going to have to get acclimated to the smaller ice, but all indications are, with the level that he’s been playing at, it’s a great time for him to come over. I talked to him today and he’s looking forward to it.”
Armstong has kept close tabs on Nikitin since returning from his trip to Russia, and that likely was a key factor in Nikitin making a commitment to the Blues.
“You just try to keep the lines of communication open,” Armstrong said. ”We don’t rush anything. We talk to these players multiple times and send our scouts to watch them when they’re in a tournament. We let them know that the Blues are interested in their progress, and when they’re ready for a new challenge, we’ll (work) with them.”
Armstrong noted that Nikitin would travel to Toronto this summer and train with NHL players. “And I talked to him about taking some English courses, and he said that he’s starting those. He’s making the commitment, which is a real positives sign for the organization.”