In a matchup between the two best teams in Canada, Ennis became the unlikely hero and stole all the headlines for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock scratched winger Tyler Ennis on Saturday, he was back in the lineup again on Monday against the Calgary Flames – a bit of a surprising move, as Nic Petan managed to pot his first goal as a Leaf in the game against the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend.
In the end, Babcock made the right decision. Ennis put up one of the best performances of his career, notching a hat trick in a 6-2 Leaf victory.
Ennis would open the scoring in the game, beating David Rittich with a backhand that found the top shelf. He would nab his second marker of the first period with 2:45 remaining.
The 29-year-old would complete the hat trick in the third period on a shot that Rittich will want back.
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Monday’s hat trick marked the first time in Ennis’ career that he reached the milestone. He is latest example of a player the Maple Leafs have found as a low-risk, high-reward talent in free agency over the past decade.
They first struck gold with Mason Raymond. The winger signed a one-year, $1-million deal with the Leafs in the summer of 2013 and proceed to post 19 goals and 45 points over a full 82-game slate. Raymond’s efforts with the Leafs would earn him a three-year, $9.45-million contract with the Flames the following off-season.
In 2014, the Leafs would find another gem in Mike Santorelli. He would also sign a one-year pact with the team. He managed 11 goals and 29 points in 57 games with the Buds and was moved, along with Cody Franson, to the Nashville Predators for a 2015 first-round pick, Olli Jokinen, and Brendan Leipsic. That first was later traded for a pair of second rounders that turned into Travis Dermott and Jeremy Bracco.
Ennis is the latest bargain find by the Maple Leafs. Making just $650,000 this year, he has 12 goals and 17 points on the campaign. Heading into Monday’s game, he’d already set his highest goal output since the 2014-15 season, when he was still a member of the Sabres.
While averaging just 10:10 of ice time per game, Ennis has managed to put home more goals than Jeff Carter ($5.2 million), Ryan Johansen ($8 million), and Ryan Getzlaf ($8.25 million).
He also owns more markers than teammate William Nylander and 2018 Hart winner Taylor Hall, however, both individuals come with asterisks – the former missed half the year due to a contract holdout while the latter only played 33 games in 2018-19 due to injury.
Regardless of how he’s gotten to this point, Ennis will take it. The Edmonton native managed to put forth a massive performance in front of friends and family and help his team capture their 41st win of the year.
He’ll return home on Saturday to face the Oilers in the final game of the Leafs’ Western Canadian road swing.