After a breakout campaign in 2015-16 with the Toronto Marlies and an 11 game stint in the NHL, Nikita Soshnikov had a disappointing rookie season in with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Often found on the fourth line with Ben Smith and Matt Martin, Soshnikov was unable to show his true talent due to the quality of his linemates, he simply didn’t get any help from his line.
Heading into 2017-18, Soshnikov will have to have a great training camp to make the Leafs again. With three games to go until he requires waivers, Nikita Soshnikov could once again find himself at Ricoh Coliseum in October.
Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Nikita Soshnikov
Soshnikov signed with the Leafs as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2015, after an impressive season with Atlant Mytischi in the KHL. In his debut season that fall, Soshnikov showed off impressive goal scoring skills with the Marlies, scoring 18 goals and tallying 28 points in 52 games before being called up.
At the trade deadline, Soshnikov was among multiple Marlies called up to bring new life to the last place Maple Leafs. In 11 games, he registered five points, including a memorable first career goal versus Washington (I’m pretty sure the crossbar is still ringing).
The performance intrigued Leafs fans and management, as Soshnikov’s feisty play and goal-scoring ability made him a very fun player to watch. To start the 2016-17 season, Soshnikov found himself on the fourth line and penalty kill. Although he was superb killing penalties, his offensive production was little to none.
In a fourth line role alongside Ben Smith and Matt Martin, offensive chances were few and far between. Soshnikov scored just nine points in 56 games a year ago, leaving his spot on the 2017-18 Maple Leafs in question.
Unfortunately, Soshnikov suffered a concussion in February that kept him out the rest of the year, with symptoms lingering well into the summer. In that time, Marlies sensation Kasperi Kapanen burst onto the scene, showing electric speed and coming up clutch in Game 81 against Pittsburgh to clinch a playoff spot, as well as in Game Two in double overtime against Washington to tie the series.
Profile (via EliteProspects)
Weight: 190 lbs
NHL Draft: Undrafted, Signed on March 20, 2015, by Toronto
Contract (via CapFriendly)
Nikita Soshnikov is entering the final year of his three-year entry-level contract. He received a $92,500 signing bonus on July 1 and will make $707,500 if he plays in the NHL, for a total salary of $800,000. Soshnikov also has the potential to make another $125,000 in performance bonuses. He carries a cap hit of $736,667 and will make $70,000 if he were to play in the minors with the Toronto Marlies.
Nikita Soshnikov will have plenty of competition for a job in the NHL this training camp. With the addition of Patrick Marleau, the only open spot seems to be the 13th forward. Even though Soshnikov was on the fourth line last year, the likes of Eric Fehr, Josh Leivo, Miro Aaltonen, Kasperi Kapanen, and Kerby Rychel will all be looking to replace him.
Soshnikov’s waivers position hurts him as well. He only needs to play three more games in the NHL to become waivers eligible, a rule that could cost him his spot with the Leafs in 2017-18. Kasperi Kapanen is in a similar situation, as he also does not require waivers to be sent down. Both Kapanen and Soshnikov could find themselves in the AHL if the Leafs want to avoid placing one of Leivo or Rychel on waivers.
Regardless, Soshnikov could use more time in the AHL to develop his scoring ability and regain some confidence after a poor 2016-17 season. The Russian still brings a lot to the table both offensively and defensively, and even if he does find himself in the AHL this year, he should factor in during the 2018-19 season after the Leafs inevitably lose players in free agency.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images