A look at the growth of Ilya Mikheyev over the last year

Published April 25, 2022 at 5:25 PM
BY BRADLEY CELSIE
In the off-season of 2019, The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Ilya Mikheyev to a one year NHL contract. Mikheyev had spent the previous four seasons with the Omsk Avangard of the KHL. Admittedly, not many people knew what to expect from Mikheyev, but the signing seemed to have paid off instantly. In his first year with the Maple Leafs, Mikheyev produced 23 points (8 goals & 15 assists) in his first 39 National Hockey League games. Then, he suffered a terrifying injury that derailed a very promising sesaon.


Mikheyev would miss the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season, which was also cut short due to the pandemic. He returned for the play-in series against the Columbus Blue Jackets but in five games was unable to find the score sheet.

Last season, Mikheyev potted 17 points (7 goals & 10 assists) in 54 games. Unhappy with his role with the team and feeling as though he could contribute more offensively if given better offensive minutes, Mikheyev requested a trade during the off-season. The Toronto Maple Leafs decided not to oblige his request, but to increase his minutes and his level of responsibility accordingly. That decision has paid off for both parties.



After a thumb injury in training camp that sided lined him until mid-December, Mikheyev has produced a career high 20 goals and 31 points in only 51 games this season. This point output projects for 32 goals and 50 points in a full 82 game season. Mikheyev has established himself as an elite penalty killer and one of the fastest players in the league. Not bad for a guy plucked from the KHL three years ago.

Even more impressive, the Russian winger has almost doubled his shooting percentage since coming over to the NHL, shooting 13.9% this season. He was just a 7.3% shooter coming into this season, so he has shown tremendous growth in that area of his game as well.


With Mikheyev heading into the summer as a pending unrestricted free agent and likely due for a massive raise, this post-season may be the last time we see him in a Leafs uniform. If Mikheyev does end up pursuing a big money deal in free agency, Leafs fans will have nothing to be upset about, as Mikheyev has given it everything he has on every shift. He'll be remembered even more fondly if he can help the Leafs go on a deep postseason run, or *knock on wood*, possibly even win a Stanley Cup.

I think we're all still holding onto hope that Mikheyev likes his role and his teammates in Toronto and that he might be willing to take a team-friendly deal in order to remain a Leaf if he believes he can win in Toronto. I know.. wishful thinking.
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