Ilya Mikheyev, the perfect top-nine winger that the top-loaded Maple Leafs desperately need

The Cobra, the soup-lover, Ilya Mikheyev, has been having quite an interesting season. After starting the year off with a long-term injury, and the team having regular success, it felt as if he was a bit of a spare part. Once he rejoined the team, though, it didn’t take long for him to re-establish a beloved lore about him. It’s not just that he’s got fun, quirky nicknames; he’s a lovable person who you want to have an affectionate inside name for.
The winger has been exceeding expectations especially of late, coming off a 3-point performance against Winnipeg on Thursday night. For a depth player, having 22 points in 38 games is pretty good. That’s a 47-point pace on an 82-game season. What’s more impressive is the Cy Young-winning numbers, as he’s put up a 20-2 performance, that being 20 primary points and only 2 secondary assists. Thanks to my colleague Mark Norman for that reference.
As my other colleague David Alter wrote recently:
“…while his future with the Maple Leafs is bleak given the raise he’s expected to command as a pending unrestricted free agent, this is the right time to see if Mikheyev can be the top-six left winger that the Leafs need ahead of the playoffs.”
Our editor Jon Steitzer had a bleaker take: Ilya Mikheyev’s next contract shouldn’t be much of a worry for the Maple Leafs because it probably won’t be with Toronto.
My original hypothesis when I started seeing his success was that he was riding a bit of a shooting perc …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

How Ilya Lyubushkin will be instrumental in what the Maple Leafs do at the trade deadline

It’s only been 11 games, but Ilya Lyubushkin has already become a favourite among Maple Leafs fans. Whether it be his defensive play, his tendency to steamroll players or his play in front of the net, it’s safe to say fans love the Russian Bear. But it’s not just the fans that have liked his game. Head coach Sheldon Keefe promoted Lyubushkin up to the top pair with Morgan Rielly for a few shifts during the Heritage Classic against the Buffalo Sabres. That pairing started together last game against the Dallas Stars and it looks like they will be staying together against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Mind you, TJ Brodie and Justin Holl were the ones who matched up against Jason Robertson the most on Monday night. We’ll get into it a bit more as we go, but Rielly and Lyubushkin or a player like Lyubushkin finding chemistry could be instrumental for the Maple Leafs. We’ll also talk about my worries with the pairing.

#Leafs lines at practice Mar. 16/22
Extra: Matthews (suspended), Simmonds
— David Alter (@dalter) March 16, 2022

It seems like promoting Lyubushkin higher in the lineup has been an idea for a while now. Possibly ever since the Maple Leafs acquired him back in February in a deal that sent Nick Ritchie and a conditional pick to the Arizona Coyotes. When you consider that Ben Chiarot was traded to Florida for a first-round pick and a prospect drafted in the third round just a few years ago, you have to like the Lyubushkin deal for the Leafs. The fact that Ritchie has five goals and seven points in nine games since joining Arizona doesn’t phase me. Good for him. …

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Author: Stephen Brown / The Leafs Nation

The Lyubushkin eye test, and what he can bring to the Leafs

The acquisition of Ilya Lyubushkin seemed like a good safety net move for the Leafs. Someone they could count on when things started looking bleak. In true Leafs’ fashion, it managed to get bleak before Lyubushkin even received his Canadian work visa and a would-be third-pairing defenseman is now likely holding down the fort on the second pairing.

The Russian Bear has arrived.
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) February 23, 2022

It’s in the spirit of the trial by fire that I decided to take a look at some video of how Lyubushkin played while with the Coyotes. I’ve looked at his numbers, and know he’s a low-event player. I know he likes to hit and he’ll even punch faces when he has to, and the fact that he’s received the blessing from Michael Bunting as a good guy to bring in, it seems like the Leafs made the right choice, but let’s take a quick look at how he defends.

Watching Lyubushkin play on the penalty kill there is already a lot of hope that he can bring some of what he does in 4v5 situations to 5v5 situations. This seems like Lyubushkin is very good at staying aware of not only the primary threat in the high danger area of ice, but who may be entering it, and he cheats towards them to keep himself positionally sound.
Lyubushkin also doesn’t make life easy for players taking up that real estate and that’s something that has been lacking from the Leafs’ lineup, but even when he’s doing that, it looks like he doesn’t overcommit and tracks the play effectively.
He’s not pulled away from his assignment and stays where his skill set is best utilized. Putting Lyubushkin on the ice with someone like Sandin or Rielly at 5v5 might allow for the Leafs to maintain strong net protection while having a more mobile defender attack the puck.

#Leafs are 30th in NHL with .757 high-danger SV% at all strengths since start of December. They ranked 1st through November at .872.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 22, 2022 …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Where Ilya Mikheyev fits once he returns to the Leafs lineup

Ilya Mikheyev is just over halfway through his recovery of a broken thumb suffered in a pre-season game vs. Ottawa.
In a few weeks, this is going to be a problem. But it’s always a good problem to have.
Earlier this year, we learned that Mikheyev requested a trade because he wanted more ice time, which he felt like he wasn’t getting in Toronto. If you remember back to the All or Nothing series, Mikheyev spoke with Kyle Dubas about his play last year.
During his pre-season, Mikheyev looked considerably well. He was finishing more of his chances, showcasing his speed, and proving why he’s such a valuable member of this lineup.
However, fitting him in at this point of the season is going to be very difficult.
It seemed as though the 27-year-old would be a fit with David Kämpf and Ondřej Kaše. But after going down with an injury, Pierre Engvall has filled in and played considerably well with the two.
When Engvall isn’t with Kaše and Kämpf, the line has a 5.51 GA/60 at five-on-five. Once you place Engvall back, the line has a 0.54 GA/60 at five-on-five. If you’ …

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Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

TLN Top 20 Leafs: #17 Ilya Mikheyev

Ilya Mikheyev came into the Leafs’ organization as a relative unknown after signing as an undrafted free agent out of the KHL in the 2019 offseason. It didn’t take long for him to endear himself to the Leafs faithful, however, due in large part to his up-tempo style of play and his famous plea for more soup during his early days in Toronto.
His strong play prior to a scary injury that derailed his rookie season brought on increased expectations for Mikheyev in the 2020-21 season but he was unable to take a step forward in terms of his offensive production. Following a bit of a down year, an offseason that saw the Leafs add multiple depth forwards to the roster, and a trade request spurred by frustration with his usage, Mikheyev lands at #17 on our countdown.
Five Interesting Stats
5v5 TOI/GP
ixG (Penalty Kill)
5v5 GA/60
Mikheyev’s complaints about his role and ice time don’t hold much water when you consider that he played the seventh most minutes at 5v5 among Leafs forwards (excluding Nick Foligno who played just seven regular season games with Toronto) but his concerns likely stem from his lack of …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Leafs by the Numbers: Ilya Mikheyev

The surprise emergence of Ilya Mikheyev last season seems like it was fun for everyone involved (except the goalies he scored on). Coming over from Russia, he immediately found a role as a top-6 forward playing a more energy role, like Zach Hyman does on whatever line he’s playing on.
At 5-on-5 last season, Mikheyev scored 6 goals and 15 assists. He also rose to fame with a simple comment on soup, earning him an endorsement with Campbell’s.
That’s why Ilya Mikheyev’s number is 44.
Why? Because for an 82-game season, in what was his debut NHL season, he was on pace to score 44 points. And also, his commercial for Campbell’s soup is 44 seconds long (according to YouTube; nominally it is a 45-second commercial).
If you live under a rock and didn’t know, Mikheyev landed the deal with Campbell’s thanks to an innocent comment in one of his postgame interviews:

Ilya Mikheyev bravely faced the Toronto media post-game, in English. Did a great job.
Talked about the adjustments to being in Canada now: “I like soup. I don’t know why you don’t eat soup. My girlfriend cooks for me, so I’m very happy.”
— …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Arbitration filings between Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto Maple Leafs off by $1.6-million

The first arbitration filings between Ilya Mikheyev and the Toronto Maple Leafs have been filed showing a $1.6-million discrepancy between what the player and club want.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Leafs offered two-years at $1-million while Mikheyev asked for one-year at $2.7-million.

Arbitration filings on Mikheyev (TOR): Team is 2 years at $1M. Player is one year at $2.7M. Remember: team goes in low, player goes in high
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 19, 2020

This year was his first in the NHL where he played in 39 regular season games scoring eight goals and 23 points. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games scoring no points.
The 26-year-old joined the Leafs after playing the last four season with Avangard Omsk in the KHL.
As TLN writer Mark Norman wrote last week, the Leafs have a strong case against Mikheyev in arbitration largely due to the limited number of games played. His 39 games played are the least by any of the 14 players to have their cases heard by an arbitrator since 2014.
His rookie campaign was shortened after sustaining a laceration to his wrist.
On Twitter: @zjlaing

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Author: Zach Laing / The Leafs Nation

Ilya Mikheyev applies for salary arbitration and that’s probably a good thing

Ilya Mikheyev has chosen to exercise his right to salary arbitration, and at a quick glance this seems to be a mutually beneficial thing for both Mikheyev and the Leafs.

Mikheyev (TOR) files for arbitration
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 10, 2020

For Mikheyev the decision to go the arbitration route could provide him with a swifter path to unrestricted free agency and a much more competitive contract. Going this route also guarantees the Leafs will have to accept the arbitrators decision. That also gives Mikheyev a bit more leverage in negotiations with the Leafs if they are worried about a high value awarded.
For the Leafs, they find themselves where they could potentially head into arbitration on a player with a very short NHL resume as Mikheyev was injured most of last season. There is a good chance the award will be low. There’s also the fact that arbitration makes Mikheyev ineligible for offer sheets, not that there is any worry of that in the NHL anyway. The trade off is the Leafs giving Mikheyev term now would benefit them more in the long run.

Dubas last night on Mikheyev: “With Ilya, he is going to be an arbitration case potentially …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

What should the Leafs do with Ilya Mikheyev?

To say that Ilya Mikheyev‘s rookie season was eventful would be putting it lightly.
He began the season by taking a selfie with Mike Babcock near a gas station, scored his debut game, and then expressed confusion over why Canadians didn’t like soup. His role and value to the Leafs grew as the year progressed, got more comfortable on North American ice, and improved his play after the coaching change. By all accounts, he was on track to post solid numbers and play a factor in the team’s success.
It all came to a screeching halt during a December game against the New Jersey Devils where Mikheyev’s wrist was cut open by Jesper Bratt’s skate. Prior to this, he had registered 8 goals, 15 assists, and 23 points in 39 games. His season appeared to be over and his career was in jeopardy. While his teammates struggled to fill the void in his absence, he quietly healed and worked on his craft once his wrist recovered. The pause gave him a chance to fully regain strength and improve on the ice, providing him extra motivation to prove his importance to the Leafs.
Once training …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

A new KHLer to start caring about

It is safe to say that the Ilya Mikheyev experiment has been well received so far. Much more debatable is that the Leafs had some modest success with Nikita Zaitsev initially, Soshnikov showed some promise, and that Igor Ozhiganov, was well, Igor Ozhiganov was an admirable attempt.
What is safer to say is that the Leafs have had success with appealing to Russian players that coming over to play for the Leafs is in their interest. That will probably be made easier by the fact that Mikheyev will likely become a fixture on the Leafs for the future and that Egor Korshkov has some potential to join the club as well in the near future.
With all that in mind, it’s time to shift our eyes to a new Russian, Alexander Barabanov.
From Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts:
“A name to learn: Alexander Barabanov. The Russian left-shot winger will be 26 in June, and word is a few NHL executives will be going to see him in person. His 46 points in 58 games for St. Petersburg were 18th in the KHL last season. He’s at three points in the first 12 games this year, but his ice time is down from 15:26 to 13:19. …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation