NHL “always been a dream” of Soshnikov

- March 21st, 2015

Nikita Soshnikov is willing to put in the time to possibly become a full-time player with the Maple Leafs one day.
“(The) NHL has always been a dream of mine,” Soshnikov told RSport.ru in Moscow. “Now my dream is within reach. I know that (with) a two-way contract, (I) probably will have to make (my) way through the farm club but I’m ready for it.”
For the 21-year-old Soshnikov, the location of the Marlies in Toronto in crucial. He knows Leafs management will be able to watch him closely and “this means that everything will depend on me.”
Soshnikov signed a three-year entry level contract with the Leafs on Friday. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward played in 57 games for Moscow Oblast Atlant of the Kontinental Hockey League this season, recording 32 points (14 goals and 18 assists). Soshnikov led the team with 14 goals at even-strength and had 22 penalty minutes. His 32 points were the third-highest total among KHL players under the age of 23.

Canada gets USA in 2016 world junior opener

- March 9th, 2015

Canada’s defence of the gold medal at the 2016 world junior championship will begin against one of its arch-rivals.
The International Ice Hockey Federation announced on Monday the schedule for the tournament in Helsinki, revealing that Canada will clash with the United States on Dec. 26.
Canada, which beat Russia in the gold-medal game in Toronto in January after going five years without winning the event, will play Denmark on Dec. 28, Switzerland on Dec. 29 and Sweden on Dec. 31.
Canada is in Group A. Its games will be played at the Helsinki Ice Hall.
Host Finland is joined in Group B by Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Belarus. Group B games will be contested at the Hartwall Arena.
Six players from Canada’s championship squad are eligible to play in the 2016 world junior. One of them is Connor McDavid, and by the time Boxing Day rolls around, he probably will be on his way to making a strong case to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. In short, he won’t be in Finland.
Others who can come back are defenceman Joe Hicketts and forwards Brayden Point, Jake Virtanen, Lawson Crouse and Robby Fabbri.
The U.S. will be looking to get back on track after finishing fifth this past winter. Jack Eichel is eligible to return, but like McDavid, should be entrenched solidly in the NHL with an eye to winning the Calder.
Eichel aside, others who are eligible to return for the U.S. are goalie Brandon Halverson, defencemen Noah Hanifin, Ryan Collins, Zach Werenski and Brandon Carlo and forwards Nick Schmaltz, Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch, Dylan Larkin and Auston Matthews.
The gold-medal game in the 2016 tournament will be played on Jan. 5.

Kadri late for meeting, Horachek sends him home

- March 8th, 2015

Never a dull moment with the Maple Leafs, eh?
Centre Nazem Kadri was not on the ice for a rare Sunday practice at the MasterCard Centre and interim head coach Peter Horachek didn’t have a problem explaining why.
“He missed a meeting, so I sent him home,” Horachek said. “He showed up, but not when I was doing it.”
Will Kadri be in the lineup tomorrow night when the New York Islanders visit the Air Canada Centre?
“He is available if I want him,” Horachek said.
Horachek confirmed what he had hinted at on Saturday night, that defenceman Stephane Robidas is done for the season. Robidas will have surgery on his left shoulder, possibly as early as Wednesday.
“We decided it would be better for him to have the surgery since it is a long recovery in order for him to be available for training camp next year,” Horachek said. “We felt it would be better for him to get it done. He has some tears in his labrum and his rotator cuff. We don’t want this to be a recurring thing.”
Jonathan Bernier, who allowed three goals on 17 shots in the first period of an eventual 6-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, will be back in goal to start against the Islanders, Horachek said.

Kessel’s passion needs to be shown on the ice

- March 3rd, 2015

Let the Maple Leafs — or in this case, Phil Kessel — take their frustrations out on the media. Fine.
We should remember what the players almost always say when they’re asked about which way management should go via trades, free agency, other moves, etc.
“The players just play,” usually is the answer, or some variation of it.
Then go do it. Go demonstrate, starting on Tuesday night in Florida against the Panthers, that you’re capable.
Give a damn as much on the ice as you apparently do off the ice.
The tweet that appeared on TSN regarding Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul and Phaneuf’s wife, Elisha Cuthbert, was reprehensible. Period.
Players and the organization should be upset about it, none more than Phaneuf and Lupul.
If that was Kessel’s way of defending Phaneuf regarding that tweet, no problem.
Fact is, though, Phaneuf has been captain of a team — and paid quite handsomely for it — that is headed for another April which will be marked by tee times and fishing trips.
Phaneuf was named captain in June 2010. Since then, the Leafs have appeared in seven playoff games.
Should the collective failures in the ensuing years all fall at the feet of Phaneuf? No. Last we checked, hockey is a team game. Kessel, Lupul, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and every other Leaf who has been part of unsuccessful teams must share in it.
But Phaneuf is the captain. So yes, he will get more attention than other players. That’s part of the territory that comes with that letter on the front of the sweater.
If Kessel wants to get behind his captain that badly, then show it during games. Start backchecking with authority. Use that quickness and talent that most players would kill for to become a responsible player all over the ice.
Put something behind the words.

Hope that groundwork leads to core breakup

- March 2nd, 2015

So Olli Jokinen and Korbinian Holzer were traded by the Maple Leafs.
Not surprising, sort of. Not sure how Jokinen helps the St. Louis Blues (depth? really?) based on the way he played in Toronto, which was to be mostly unnoticeable other than setting up James van Riemsdyk for an overtime winner against the Winnipeg Jets 10 days ago.
Holzer’s condition must not be serious, though coach Peter Horachek did call it a concussion following the Leafs’ game in Washington on Sunday night. Had it been anything for the Anaheim Ducks to worry about, they wouldn’t have traded for Holzer.
The Leafs got forward Joakim Lindstrom and defenceman Eric Brewer. Both are on expiring contracts. Neither will be in the Leafs’ plans going forward.
Those who were hoping for the Leafs to blow up the roster on Monday — or thought they were going to — haven’t been paying attention in recent weeks.
When Leafs general manager David Nonis was able to trade Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik and David Clarkson, he made it clear that moving players with bigger contracts would be less difficult in the off-season (Clarkson is the exception, and with the way that deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets was consummated, a one-off).
He said as much again on Monday. No names were mentioned. But Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul all could be on borrowed time in Toronto. The Leafs might not necessarily get a ton more value for those players in the off-season, but the market could be bigger.
Nonis said the goal is to build the Leafs into a contender. The core has had its shot.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, remember. When the Leafs added Winnik, Santorelli, David Booth, Leo Komarov, Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak last summer, the thinking behind Leafs closed doors was the core was being bolstered with sturdy depth players. Combined, the core and depth would be enough to get the Leafs back to the playoffs.
And Jonathan Bernier was going to become a true No. 1 netminder.
None of those hopes were realized.
Nonis agreed with the idea that in talking trade with fellow GMs leading up to the deadline, groundwork has been laid for future possible deals. And he was adamant that the idea that other teams aren’t interested in the Leafs’ big-name players is nonsense.
Had there been no interest, phones in the Leafs’ offices at the Air Canada Centre would have been silent. That wasn’t the case.
We’ve been saying for a while now that the Leafs’ core has to be broken up in order for this team to move forward properly.
Let’s hope the pieces put in place by Nonis lead to something constructive — and there is actual trade news that is worthy of hours of discussion — once the players have scattered to their summer homes.