It’s been just three games since we last checked in with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their rookies, but the team has gone through quite a few storylines over the last week which have and will impact their rookies over the next little while.
To start, Mitch Marner is out of the lineup for at least four weeks, Zach Hyman is set to return and make his season debut and John Tavares returned to the lineup – all impacting the play of the Maple Leafs three rookies.
Over the week, the Maple Leafs played games against the the Vegas Golden Knights followed up with a weekend back-to-back against the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks. The Maple Leafs finished the three games with a 1-1-1 record, grabbing three of a possible six points.
While the rookies may not have had a lot to say on the scoresheet, they did find themselves getting more ice-time in the team’s three games – at least a couple of them did.
Mikheyev: Finding Consistency
Now, we’ve talked about his hot start to the season, but Ilya Mikheyev has come up a bit short of the offensive end as of late. It isn’t for a lack of trying either. Mikheyev has had a number of opportunities this season – 33 to be exact, with 14 of them being defined by Natural Stat Trick as high-danger scoring chances.
Mikheyev has seen more defensive zone starts since we last discussed his game, now with 51.5 percent of his starts coming in his own end. And it has shown with a slight dip in his numbers so far. While he’s been on the ice for 14 of the team’s goals, he has also been on the ice 15 times when the opposition scores.
That said, Mike Babcock must see something in his play that he likes. While he’s averaging 16 minutes of ice-time per game, Mikheyev has seen a slight increase in ice-time since falling to just 14:24 in the team’s Nov. 5 game against the Los Angeles Kings. In fact, he’s averaged just over 15 minutes over the past three games and is getting opportunities with some of the Maple Leafs top six forwards with Marner out of the lineup the past two games.
That said, it hasn’t led to points on the scoresheet for the speedy Russian. He’s registered just four shots over those three games with a minus-three rating. The lack of offence has also dropped Mikheyev to fifth in rookie scoring with 11 points in 19 games – behind Cale Makar (18), Victor Olofsson (12), Martin Necas (12) and Quinn Hughes (12).
Trevor Wants Moore
Like Mikheyev, Trevor Moore has seen his ice-time increase without necessarily the production to go with it. Moore is at a stand-still offensively with just five points in 19 games this season. But the speedy little forward is still showing off his skill – even if the numbers have shown that to this point.
Over the past three games, Moore has had eight scoring chances and three have been high-danger opportunities. Still, nothing on the board.
Moore, who is averaging just under 15 minutes per game this season, has seen a spike in ice-time over the last two contests. After dropping to just 12:14 of ice-time against the Golden Knights on Nov. 7, Moore saw over 17 minutes of ice-time in consecutive games – playing among the Maple Leafs top six.
Timashov: Still Working for Ice-Time
The only rookie on the team that hasn’t benefitted from the loss of Marner over the last couple of games is Dmytro Timashov. In fact, the 23-year-old has been all over the map when it comes to ice-time and part of that might be from the fourth line’s lack of production over the past number of games.
After games of 7:49 and 9:14 against the Golden Knights and Flyers, respectively, Timashov played just five minutes against the Blackhawks in the second half of the Maple Leafs back-to-back.
Part of that stems from the fact that the Maple Leafs started the game going down 3-0 to Chicago and while Timashov and his line haven’t provided the team with offence lately, they were able to keep the puck out of their own net as well. Either way, Babcock might be seeing something he’s not thoroughly impressed with, but the lack of ice-time surely isn’t benefitting Timashov’s game, nor his development.
All three of the Maple Leafs rookies will be looking to get back on the scoresheet on Wednesday, when the Maple Leafs head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.