Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly in running to sign Ilya Mikheyev

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a faceoff against John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 11, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning takes a faceoff against John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 11, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs appear to be dipping into the international free agent pool once again, as they are in the running for Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been no strangers to the international free agent pool over the past three years, and it appears as though they could be close to landing another Russian talent.

Toronto is one of a few teams closing in on winger Ilya Mikheyev, according to’s Igor Eronko.

His initial report was followed up by TSN’s Darren Dreger, who confirmed that the Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and Chicago Blackhawks are all still firmly in the mix and that a decision is expected to be made this weekend.

The 24-year-old has played on Avangard Omsk for the past four seasons. In his first campaign in the KHL, he was named the league’s Rookie of the Week on two separate occasions. He finished the 2015-16 campaign with 18 points in 52 games.

He’s steadily improved his point totals with every passing year. Last season, he posted 19 goals and 38 points in 52 games.

Ahead of this season, Omsk named Bob Hartley the team’s new head coach. Under the former Jack Adams Trophy winner, Mikheyev played in all situations, including penalty kill. Points-wise, he put up a career-high 23 goals and 45 points in 62 games. For his efforts, he was named to his first KHL All-Star Game.

Avangard came into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and managed to make it all the way to the Gagarin Cup Finals, where they eventually fell to Ilya Sorokin and the Red Army in four straight games. Mikheyev had nearly a point per game in the run, finishing with four goals and 11 points in 13 games.

"“Mikheyev is arguably the best free agent in Europe this season. His KHL contract expires in the spring, and there should be plenty of NHL interest at that point. The 24-year-old winger is a dual threat because he can both make plays and finish them. He has good acceleration and good top speed. His hockey sense is very good as well. He does a good job using his size to protect the puck and win puck-battles along the boards. He can also throw the occasional hit but isn’t known for that style of play. Defensively, he uses his hockey smarts for good defensive reads. He’s a good back-checker, and a capable penalty-killer as well. Mikheyev’s counting stats in the KHL may not look all that impressive but he plays for a low-scoring team, and he’s arguably the best offensive player on the Omsk roster,” – Jokke Nevalainen, Dobber Prospects"

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The Leafs haven’t shied away from adding talent from Europe in the past. They initially signed Nikita Zaitsev from CSKA Moscow in 2016. He’s since signed a seven-year, $31.5-million contract – no further comment will be made on that deal. A year later, the team signed a pair of Swedish defencemen – Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman – to entry-level deals. Both helped the Marlies capture last year’s Calder Cup, and Rosen has emerged as an option for the NHL with a solid 2018-19 AHL season.

Most recently, the Maple Leafs signed Russian defender Igor Ozhiganov from CSKA in the KHL and Swedish centre Pär Lindholm from Skelleftea in the SHL. With the addition of Jake Muzzin near the trade deadline, Ozhiganov became a seventh defensive option for the team. Lindholm, on the other hand, was shipped out of town at the deadline in exchange for Nic Petan.

Mikheyev PNHLe stats project him as a middle six talent in the NHL. The Leafs will likely have a spot or two up for grabs up front next season. Jeremy Bracco has proven to be a player that could make the jump to the Leafs next season. Pierre Engvall is also an intriguing option to look at for the Leafs’ fourth-line centre spot.

There will be changes after the team’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Kyle Dubas loves individuals that play with speed and can be trusted in multiple situations. Mikheyev is just that.

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What do you think of the Leafs’ pursuit of Mikheyev? Who are you most excited to see push for a roster spot next year? Let us know in the comments below!