The Most Eventful Season in Maple Leafs History has seen a lot of changes, most of which have contributed to the revitalization of the prospect pool. Adding players like Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen to the top tier of a system that already featured William Nylander is one way to do that.
One of the more under-the-radar “stocking the cupboard” moves this offseason was the signing of Nikita Soshnikov
, a Russian right winger. At 5’11 and 183 pounds, Soshnikov is one of many ‘smaller but skilled’ guys the Leafs are taking a chance on moving forward.
Unlike Casey Bailey, who is already 23, Soshnikov is 21 – still young enough to be considered a good prospect with lots of room to grow. And his numbers in the KHL support that – he put up 32 points in 57 games last season, very good for his second season in the KHL and first season receiving top six minutes. Now, it is hard to know how KHL numbers will translate to the NHL, but his numbers are certainly not a negative.
But it’s not just those numbers and his skill set that make him a good prospect in a suddenly strong system – it’s his attitude, which comes across nicely in an interview he did with his KHL team’s site after signing with the Leafs:
Maybe it will be harder to break into the [NHL] system, but that means
I’ll be able to grow and progress as a player faster. The finances don’t
matter to me – money isn’t important when you’re young. My goal is to
play in the NHL with the best players in the world.
There was interest from other NHL clubs, but Toronto got to me with a
concrete offer very quickly. I know that hockey is very popular there,
the kind of fans they have – I’m very happy that I chose them.
Oh and this one on Leo Komarov:
I like his style of play. He leaves everything – his soul – on the ice.
Original quotes in Russian from Atlant’s website, translated to English by our own Cat Silverman. She rules.
To be fair, there aren’t a lot of scouting reports of Soshnikov, since he wasn’t a draft prospect and he has played entirely overseas. But on his recent rankings of Leafs prospects
, Corey Pronman had him as the 10th ranked prospect in the system, saying “[Soshnikov] will need some time in North America before he’s ready to make an NHL impact, but he’s toolsy, including above-average or better speed and puck skills, though he has work to do to round out his game.”
For our liking, that’s pretty solid praise for a guy that cost nothing but a contract. A free wallet, as they say.
If you want to do some scouting of your own, check out this footage of him playing against Ilya Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg.
Soshnikov ranked as high as 9 on our prospect lists (full disclosure: that list was mine), and as low as 14. That variance is most certainly the result of a lack of viewings because of his time in the KHL, and not being one of the “big” names looking to come over to the NHL this past summer. That said, his offensive game and numbers in the KHL are very impressive for a 21 year old, and have us optimistic about him as a prospect.
It looks like Soshnikov will at least start next season in the AHL, if not play the whole year for the Marlies. He will be joining a speedy, skilled team that should terrorize their opponents. Expect him to get top six minutes in an effort to groom him to become the same at the NHL level.
The incredible revamping of the Maple Leafs prospect system is due in large part to the excellent draft they had this year, and the development of William Nylander. But additions like Soshnikov shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of other teams have had success with signing undrafted free agents, something that hasn’t been a strong spot for the Leafs. While years past have seen them target guys like Christian Hanson and Brayden Irwin, Soshnikov is on the opposite end of the free agent spectrum. These are exactly the types of players the Leafs need to find and take chances on. Eventually, one will pan out. It’s very possible that one will be Nikita.
THE RANKINGS SO FAR