Toronto Maple Leafs: Where In the Lineup Should a Healthy Ilya Mikheyev Play?

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - OCTOBER 26: Ilya Mikheyev #65 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shifting direction against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QUEBEC - OCTOBER 26: Ilya Mikheyev #65 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shifting direction against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on October 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) /

Assuming Ilya Mikheyev is healthy when the season resumes, where should he play?

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a great player in Ilya Mikheyev that showed everyone what he could do at the NHL level this past season.

He has emerged himself into a top nine player that could even play on one of the  Toronto Maple Leafs two first lines.

The Leafs have three solid left wing options: Zach Hyman, Andreas Johnsson and Ilya Mikeyev, so who should play where?

Ilya Mikheyev and the Toronto Maple Leafs

Ilya Mikheyev is kind of a hidden gem in the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.

He was signed as a free agent out of the KHL before the start of the 2019-20 season, makes just slightly more than the league minimum, prior to the injury that forced him to miss several months of action, played well enough to earn a new contract.

2019-20 stats – 39 GP – 8 G – 15 A – 23 PTS – 53.48 CF% (Stats from

Ilya Mikheyev is the type of player that can play up and down the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup. Before his injury at the end of December in New Jersey he was consistently playing on the second line and the third line due to the amount of injuries the team was getting hit by.

The important question though is, which line should he play on with a healthy Toronto Maple Leafs lineup? The Matthews, the Tavares line or the third line? With Johnsson thought to be out of the lineup until at least August, there’s a better than average chance that Mikheyev will play on one of the top two lines.

When he was injured, Alex Kerfoot saw a lot of time as top six winger, and one thing about this current Leafs roster is that coach Sheldon Keefe has a ton of options.

I think that Hyman should stick on the Matthews line alongside William Nylander, and let Marner stay  on the Tavares line. Kefoot should play centre, and that leaves Mikheyev to play alongside Tavares and Marner which in my opinion is the best combination.

Why Mikheyev Shouldn’t Play With Matthews

I don’t think Mikheyev should play alongside Matthews and Nylander. For one, Hyman, Matthews, and Nylander have been line mates before in their careers, they were line mates during the 2016-17 season as well as the 2017-18 season, so the three of them are familiar with each other already.

Breaking up a line of those three players that have chemistry already wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do for the Toronto Maple Leafs, unless there is no production coming from them then yes break them up and start something new to get everybody’s game going again.

We have seen that happen before when Sheldon Keefe put Marner and Matthews together and put Nylander with Tavares. It wasn’t the worst thing that he had done but it eventually needed to change as the Marner and Matthews line wasn’t generating at the same rate as it was when he first put the two of them together.

Why Mikheyev Should Play With Tavares

Since I believe Ilya Mikheyev should play alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner rather than Auston Matthews and William Nylander let me explain why.

Going back to what I said not that long ago about Hyman, Matthews, Nylander already having that previous chemistry it wouldn’t be smart to split them up. Even Tavares and Marner have chemistry dating back to last season, tremendous chemistry as we all know.

Adding a guy like Ilya Mikheyev on a line with Tavares and Marner wouldn’t change anything in my eyes. Yes Hyman and Mikheyev are two different players but they play a similar role. On the Matthews line Matthews will be the goal scorer, Nylander is the playmaker, and Hyman is the guy who gets dirty in the corners to retrieve the pucks, he’s the forechecker.

For Mikheyev on the Tavares line it’s the same thing, Tavares is the goal scorer, Marner is the play maker, and Mikheyev is the Zach Hyman on this line. He forechecks really good, he’s willing to go in the corners and retrieve the pucks, etc.

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Like I said before though, if one or both of the lines start to lack production then obviously Keefe should split the lines up and try something new. This Toronto Maple Leafs team is deep with talented players up front and they can mix and match almost everyone on every line.