Toronto Maple Leafs: Ilya Mikheyev has eye-opening home debut

Toronto Maple Leafs Scotiabank Arena (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Toronto Maple Leafs Scotiabank Arena (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev had a standout showing during his first game at Scotiabank Arena and we might have to get used to that.

For most players, the preseason offers a chance to get back into game shape in preparation for the upcoming regular season.

Not for Ilya Mikheyev. This is his first training camp as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and after signing a contract with the Buds in the offseason, the Russian put together his best case to be a top-six forward to open the year during his home debut at Scotiabank Arena.

The Leafs were able to cruise to their first win of the preseason, blanking the Buffalo Sabres while potting three goals of their own. But after the game, all the attention was going to No. 65 in blue and white.

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Playing alongside Alexander Kerfoot and Dmytro Timashov on Friday night, Mikeheyev exhibited an ability to be strong on the puck along the sideboards.

For some Leafs fans, they’re seeing the 24-year old for the first time during this preseason. They got an absolute show halfway through the third period. During a rush, Timashov was able to get a stick on the puck, leaving it for Mikheyev to skate into. He’d flip the puck under the defenders stick to get it onto the forehand before sliding it through that same defender’s legs.

He’d make a backhand flip pass to Kerfoot, who’s shot just missed the mark.

Mikheyev was one of the key offseason signings by Kyle Dubas and the Leafs’ front office. Due to his skill, speed, ability and penalty killing experience during his time in the KHL, he’s one of those players that a team can plug and play in nearly any position.

The most obvious spot for him would be on the third line, alongside Kerfoot and Trevor Moore — assuming that Kasperi Kapanen slots into Zach Hyman’s spot in the lineup alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner. However, it’s not a stretch to believe that with his skill set, Mikheyev might be the perfect fit for that left-wing slot on the first line.

He’s still got time to acclimate himself to the North American game further as the Leafs continue their preseason slate. But he’s making a great push to try and be a staple on the team in 2019-20.

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What are your thoughts on Mikheyev so far in pre-season? Do you think he can be a regular contributor in the lineup? Let us know in the comments below.