Toronto Maple Leafs: High Expectations for Alexander Barabanov

Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been busy during quarantine signing KHL star Alexander Barabanov to a one-year contract two weeks ago.

The Toronto Maple Leafs  have very high expectations for Barabanov.

Barabanov has been practicing social distancing in the KHL for years, as his offensive skills are exceptional.

It is expected that Barabanov can step directly into an NHL lineup.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Barabanov

After signing with the Leafs, Sheldon Keefe had a ton of praise for their newest star during a media conference call:

"“We’re really excited to add another player to the fold here that we think has got great experience and great skill set, very high character as well…[Barabanov] checks a lot of the boxes you look for when you’re looking to add a player that you fully expect can step in and be an important part of your team.He’s played a lot both with NHL players and against NHL players in international competition…I’ve watched him play in some of those games against some of those teams with a heavy NHL presence, such as Canada. He’s succeeded there and I think that helps his confidence coming in.”"

Although it’s hard for us to watch  KHL games live, YouTube is a valuable resource for Barabanov highlights.

After going through all of the videos and highlight packages of Barabanov it’s easy to see why the Toronto Maple Leafs and 20 other teams were interested in him.

At 25-years-old, Barabanov has been playing professional hockey in the KHL for seven seasons, so his sample size is large.

Not only has he been playing professionally, but he’s been playing on arguably the best team in the KHL with the St. Petersburg SKA. Their team has won the championship two of the last three seasons.

If you look at Barabanov’s skill set, he’s going to fit in perfectly in Toronto. Although he’s played right-wing in the KHL, you’d have to imagine he’d move to the left, as that’s the weaker side for the Leafs.

If Barabanov moves to the left-wing, it wouldn’t shock me if he was playing top-six minutes and put on the first power-play to spread the offense around.  Though a role on a lower line is more likely.

Barabanov has great speed, and his edge-work is reminiscent to Mitch Marner. From every highlight, it felt like the offense ran through him, and every goal scored was due to his craftiness.

Whether he was making a crazy deke through a defender then finding a teammate for a tap-in, fore-checking to create a turnover, or firing a wrist-shot through the goaltender, Barabanov was the reason for his team’s success.

The Leafs are stacked up front, but are hoping that Barabanov gives them an NHL player for something near the league minimum, which will allow them to potentially deal one of their more expensive mid-range contracts.

If Hyman and Mikheyev take up the top two left wings spots on the roster, that means the Leafs have two potentially expensive third-liners in Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.

Barabanov is expected to make one of those players expendable.

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Although you typically aren’t expecting much from a player who makes $925,000 per year,  Barabanov could potentially offer the Leafs some very large value on the money they spent.