The Toronto Maple Leafs started the season with a number of new faces in the lineup. Some had already gained a small taste of what NHL hockey was all about, while others made their debut for the 2019-2020 season.
Among those players are were four rookies – three of which have stuck at the NHL level for the time being. While Rasmus Sandin was sent back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies following an intriguing first six games with the big club, Ilya Mikheyev, Dmytro Timashov and Trevor Moore have remained integral parts of the Maple Leafs’ lineup through the team’s first 16 games of the season.
Mikheyev Fitting Right In
It may be his first taste of North American hockey – at least from a league standpoint – for Mikheyev, but the native of Russia has shown glimpses of brilliance early on in his NHL career.
The 25-year-old winger has suited up for the Maple Leafs in all 16 games so far and has used his incredible burst of speed to contribute offensively for his club. He has four goals and 11 points, while posting a plus-eight rating and averaging just over 16 minutes of ice-time.
He’s tied for second in rookie scoring early on and has already won over both fans of the team and his teammates.
“Mikheyev’s teammates say, unlike other players who come from overseas and don’t know English all that well, Mikheyev is not afraid to try to engage in conversations and be part of team dinners and other outings on the road,” wrote Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas.
But Mikheyev’s best might be yet to come. Consider this, the Maple Leafs and Babcock surely eased him in slightly early on. That said, he is getting more opportunities as he continues to play well and, in turn, is getting more scoring chances. Assuming he can start capitalizing on some of the breakaways and odd-man rushes he’s been a part of through the team’s first 16 games and he could be a strong candidate for rookie of the year by season’s end.
Tell Me Moore
Probably the most experienced of the team’s three rookies this year, Moore had a taste of NHL action last season when he suited up for 25 games to close out the year with the Maple Leafs – meaning he is just eligible for the Calder Trophy this season having played just 25 games.
He recorded two goals and eight points before really showing what he was willing to put in during a hard fought first-round playoff battle against the Boston Bruins. It was there that the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward laid a hit on Zdeno Chara and won Maple Leafs’ fans over in an instant.
This year he has come out roaring again, having played throughout the lineup and suiting up in all 16 games for the Maple Leafs so far. While his offensive totals might not be up to what’s expected of him, he does have three goals and five points in his first 16 games of the season. But what might be more noteworthy for the 24-year-old is the fact that he’s one of the smaller players on the team, but leads the Maple Leafs in hits with 35 – and he doesn’t back down from anyone.
He’s currently tied for 14th in rookie scoring this season with four other players – including New York Rangers’ rookie Kaapo Kakko.
Timashov: The Youngest of the Group
Finally, the Maple Leafs have put a lot of faith in depth forward Timashov. The 23-year-old is the youngest of the three rookies on the Maple Leafs NHL squad and has dressed for 12 of the team’s 16 games this season.
Originally, he was part of the forward rotation that Mike Babcock had going on, but like Moore he has shown a physical side to his game that has allowed him to remain in the lineup. In fact, he ranks second on the team, behind only Moore (35), in hits with 32 and is averaging just nine minutes of ice-time this season.
On top of that, he has contributed offensively, albeit just one goal and four points in his limited ice-time. With Zach Hyman’s return to the lineup looming for the Maple Leafs, Timashov is playing for a roster spot for the remainder of the season and it could come down to what he does away from the puck that lands him a full-time gig with the big club.