Obviously the big-four need to deliver for the Toronto Maple Leafs to be successful, but Ilya Mikheyev may be the team’s biggest x-factor this playoffs.
Despite missing the first two months, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Ilya Mikheyev is having a career year. Mikheyev scored his 20th goal of the campaign on Sunday night, making him the sixth player to hit that goal-total this year.
As a pending UFA, Mikheyev has scored his way into probably being unaffordable for the Leafs moving forward, but if he wants to make even more money this offseason, he needs to bring it in the playoffs.
Currently in his third NHL season, Mikheyev has had zero impact in the playoffs.
In 12 career playoff games, he has zero points. Although he spent a majority of that time playing alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, Mikheyev still couldn’t register a point.
Obviously, Tavares, Nylander, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are going to have to deliver in the big moments, but if Mikheyev can continue his hot-streak, he may be the difference-maker in this team winning or losing in the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs Need Ilya Mikheyev to Stay Hot
Although he’s primarily a third-line winger, head coach Sheldon Keefe showed a ton of trust in him in the game against Washington on Sunday night, by having him on the ice in the final minute.
In what would turn into the tying goal scored by Jason Spezza, Mikheyev was responsible for getting the puck in front of the net. Having previously scored in the period to make it 3-2, Mikheyev continued to stay hot, grabbing an assist on the team’s tying goal.
The majority of Toronto’s offense is going to have to come from the core-four, but a timely goal from Mikheyev could be the difference in winning a series.
It’s impossible to expect Marner and Matthews to score every night, so when they have an off-night, Mikheyev is going to have to step up and there’s no reason to believe he can’t. For the past two months, he’s been one of the team’s most consistent players, seemingly scoring every other night.
At 27-years-old, Mikheyev is finally hitting his stride as a responsible third-line winger, so hopefully his regular season success can transition into the playoffs, as the Leafs will need him to come up big when it matters.
Expect him to be the X Factor.