Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Amirov, Hildeby & Jersey Numbers

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share the good news that Rodion Amirov might play hockey again in the KHL. Second, I’ll share information about Dennis Hildeby’s hip surgeries that might have allowed the team to pick him up so low in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Related: Maple Leafs Fans Continuing Love Affair with Felix Potvin

Finally, I’ll share the uniform numbers for those players who are new to the organization. 

Item One: Rodion Amirov Might Play in the KHL

This past February, Rodion Amirov got some really bad news. From the North American side watching the Maple Leafs’ first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, fans could see that he wasn’t playing and there was really not much of an explanation. In fact, one report had called him a “healthy scratch.”

Rodion Amirov
Rodion Amirov (photo credit: photo.khl.ru)

That report couldn’t have been further from the truth. It turned out that Amirov’s issue was much worse. Amirov was diagnosed to have a brain tumor. In late February, 2022, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas announced that Amirov would move to Germany to undergo treatment in Germany and, obviously, would not play the rest of the season.

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News yesterday suggested that the treatment has worked. From a health point of view, we don’t know if Amirov has a clear path ahead, but the initial signs are positive. From a hockey point of view, the report is that the Maple Leafs and Amirov’s KHL club Salavat Yulaev Ufa had extended Amirov’s loan for the 2022-23 season. 

Related: Rodion Amirov – 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Inside that announcement is the fact that Amirov is continuing to be on the upside of his recovery. He’s training and might actually play this season. 

Who knows how long it might take him to readjust to the hockey action, but the plan is in place. Although it’s much too far in the future to speculate, the one-year loan could mean that if everything goes well Amirov could come to North America for the 2023-24 season.

All in all, great news for this young man. I personally wish him well in his recovery regardless of whether he plays hockey again or not. But if he should hit the ice in his Maple Leafs NHL debut, what a special night that would be.

Item Two: Dennis Hildeby’s Hip Surgeries Likely Allowed Maple Leafs to Draft Him

The Maple Leafs took a flyer on 6-foot-5, 238-pound Swedish goalie Dennis Hildeby in the recent NHL Entry Draft. They chose him in the fourth round (at 122nd overall). The word is that, although Hildeby has the size and shape of an NHL goalie, many NHL clubs passed on him because of his less-than-stellar numbers and the fact that he had had two hip surgeries. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2022 Draft Class Recap

In fact, Hildeby was passed in his first year of eligibility. This was his second year of being draft eligible.

In reading a bit about these surgeries, I learned that they are not uncommon for hockey goalies. In March of 2021, Hildeby had surgery on the one hip that was bothering him. The reason for the surgery was that the hip bone began to tear away at the muscles around the joint. The surgery shaved and smoothed the hip to reduce irritation. Hildeby’s second hip was surgically shaved two months later.

Hildeby looked good at the Maple Leafs development camp. Assistant General Manager Hayley Wickenheiser seemed astonished at his size. She noted that, “When he’s on his knees his head is over the crossbar. A lot to like about him.” 

Wickenheiser added about his ability: “Just the poise and the control that he seems to have at this point.” 

Related: What Happens if the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nick Robertson Is Really Good?

In Hildeby, the Maple Leafs seemed to have found a big, positionally-sound young goalie prospect who uses size and athleticism to cover most of the net. He also seems to be averse to pressure. 

In an interview with media, Hildeby noted that “When I had my hip surgeries, I had no plans on playing in the SHL. When the opportunity came I had no pressure.”

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Uniform numbers were doled out to Maple Leafs newcomers this past week. Goalie Matt Murray will continue to wear No. 30, which is the only number he’s ever worn in the NHL. Forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel will keep No. 96. Defenseman Victor Mete will keep his regular No. 98. 

Nicolas Aube-Kubel Colorado Avalanche
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, when he was with the Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, Ilya Samsonov, who wore No. 30 with the Washington Capitals, will change to No. 35. And, because Adam Gaudette’s usual No. 17 was Wendel Clark’s number and it’s now retired, he’ll wear No. 71.