The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a key roster member at the very end of training camp. Ilya Mikheyev went down with a hand injury in the final preseason game. Monday, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters including Kristen Shilton of TSN that Mikheyev will require surgery for a broken thumb and is expected to miss a minimum of eight weeks. Keefe also explained that Auston Matthews, who is working his way back from wrist surgery, will not be available to the team this week.
It was a brutal blow for Mikheyev, who looked like he was going to get a chance to run on the team’s second line with John Tavares and William Nylander to open the season. After a trade request in the offseason because of a perceived lack of opportunity, it was a perfect spot for the pending unrestricted free agent to rack up some point totals as a top-six forward. Instead, he’ll now be on the shelf once again, opening the door for someone else to take his spot full time.
The Maple Leafs have plenty of forwards, but the left side was actually already their weakest position. Mikheyev’s injury means that Michael Bunting could slide in to the top six, or Alexander Kerfoot could move out of a center spot and play with the second unit. That’s all assuming a healthy lineup though, one that the Maple Leafs won’t see until Matthews returns at some point in the near future.