The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the busiest franchises in the entire National Hockey League. They will be back home at the Air Canada Centre this Wednesday to take on the Minnesota Wild before heading back out on the road to Boston.
The Leafs are coming off their Western Canada road trip that saw them take on the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. The Buds took two points against the Oil before being shutout the next night against Calgary. They ended the trip with a shootout loss to the Canucks in what proved to be one of the most exciting games of the night.
Nikita Zaitsev Has Arrived
Last year Brendan Shanahan began his courtship of Russian blueliner Nikita Zaitsev. Zaitsev was a seasoned defenseman when the Leafs scooped him up, having played in seven KHL seasons, three for Novosibirsk Sibir and the latter four for CSKA Moscow.
Zaitsev started his Leafs career by playing with Matt Hunwick. The pair struggled through a few games before head coach Mike Babcock decided to make a switch. Now paired with Morgan Rielly, Zaitsev appears to have really found his stride in the NHL.
Nikita Zaitsev marking Alex Ovechkin. This is why he's here. pic.twitter.com/5aCZPzlypj
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 27, 2016
He’s second on the team in terms of ice time as Babcock deploys him in just about every situation. He gets solid power play time and has routinely been used against the opposition’s top lines. The young Russian has yet to find the back of the net but has totaled nine assists in 24 games so far this year.
Zaitsev is an excellent skater, which is easily his best asset. His gap control, defensive presence and shot suppression are also top notch. Between himself and Reilly, the duo has formed a steady top pairing on the Leafs blueline.
Jhonas Enroth Placed on Waivers
The Leafs were looking for a backup goaltender most of this past summer. They needed a reliable presence to come in and provide occasional relief to newly minted starter Frederik Andersen.
Jhonas Enroth was signed to be that man. The Swedish netminder was great for the Los Angeles Kings last year and the Leafs were hoping he could duplicate that success. He has yet to win a game for the Maple Leafs, which you would think is playing a part in his demotion. He went 0-3-1 with a 0.872 SV% in six games, and while that is a tiny sample size, he wasn’t playing well and it’s a tough business at the end of the day.
I'm told that Karri Ramo is close to getting medical clearance from his knee rehab.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 5, 2016
The Leafs have had Karri Ramo in Toronto for the last little while as he rehabs from an injury. Should Enroth be claimed on waivers, signing Ramo may be the best course of action for the organization. They want a fresh goalie who’s confident and hungry enough to win a few games and prove he belongs there.
Update: The Toronto Marlies have signed Karri Ramo to a Professional Try Out (PTO) Tuesday morning.
Leafs Prospect Update: Kasperi Kapanen
Kasperi Kapanen was one of the prospects the Pittsburgh Penguins threw into the deal that landed them scoring winger Phil Kessel. Kapanen had a slow start to his Toronto Marlies career, before finding his footing in the latter portion of last season.
This year, he appears to be comfortable and confident and is currently ripping up the AHL. He has 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points in 21 games. He’s tied for first in AHL goals and is seventh in overall points.
Kasperi Kapanen achieves warp speed but hits the crossbar on the breakaway. Marlies trail 2-1 in the third pic.twitter.com/mnEHPHSPXR
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) November 20, 2016
Kapanen has really improved in leaps and bounds. His scoring is up, which can be attributed to him using his speed, smarts and wicked wrist shot. He’s playing big minutes and has also been given defensive responsibilities. The Maple Leafs are hoping that him playing important minutes night in and night out will lead to a smooth transition to the NHL in the very near future.