The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Russian winger Ilya Mikheyev to a one-year entry-level contract, the club announced today.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 6, 2019
Maple Leafs Sign Ilya Mikheyev to Entry Level Contract
The 24-year-old Mikheyev spent the 2018-19 season with Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In 62 games during the 2018-19 season, Mikheyev recorded 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points before recording 11 points, 4 goals, 7 assists, in 13 KHL playoff games.
Mikheyev also skated in the 2018-19 KHL All-Star Game. His 45 points this season put him in a tie for 20th among KHL skaters in points this season, while his 23 goals in 2018-19 were the ninth-most among KHL skaters.
In 224 career KHL games, all with Avangard, the Omsk, Russia, native recorded 122 points – that being, 62 goals and 60 assists.
Internationally, Mikheyev skated for Russia at the 2018 World Championships, recording four points, scoring three goals and tallying one assist in eight games played. He has been named to Russia’s 30-man roster in advance of the 2019 World Championships in Slovakia.
The details about Mikheyev’s game
According to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie, Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had been in contact with the player throughout the contract talks. McKenzie speculated that this may be the reason why Ilya Mikheyev made the choice to ink a deal with the Leafs.
Mikheyev has been a productive goal scorer wherever he has been. McKenzie said that this was a reason why the Leafs were in on him. Another reason why Babcock was interested in the player is that he stands at 6’2” and weighs 194 pounds. He has a solid two-way presence that could very well fit into Toronto’s top-nine unit next season. At least, that’s what Sportsnet’s hockey insider Chris Johnston speculated:
The scouting report on Ilya Mikheyev: A big guy (six foot two, 190 lbs) who can finish. One scout notes he’s “slow off the mark” and “not a possession guy.”
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 6, 2019
As mentioned by Chris Johnston, Mikheyev is not a possession player and is a bit slow to the puck, but is very solid in the other aspects of his game. This is what helped him become a coveted free agent to many clubs looking to bulk up their top-nine forward group.
What this means
By signing Mikheyev, the Leafs might be giving their fanbase a subtle but small nudge that someone like a Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown or Andreas Johnsson, might be on the move this offseason. To the contrary, it can also be viewed as a sneaky good depth move for the Leafs moving forward in an offseason where every dollar counts.
It is also painfully obvious that the Leafs will have their hands full trying to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner and names like Kapanen and Johnsson. This is another low-cost insurance policy signing much like the signing of Tyler Ennis was before the start of the 2018-19 season.
This is the first of the many intriguing moves to be made in the offseason by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs after another disappointing first-round exit.