Two former Maple Leafs currently sit top 15 in KHL scoring
By Luke Garrison Sunday March 3rd, 2020
Pictured—Former Maple Leaf Nikita Soshnikov rips a shot at the 2019 Karjala Cup (Original Photo—Conwaysrussianhockey.wordpress.com)
The KHL is an extremely interesting league to follow—always has been and always will be.
There are quite a few interesting players to note within the KHL's top-50 scorers including former NHL standouts Alexander Semin and Slava Voynov. The list also features a couple of players that will make you say "oh yeah...I forgot about him" such as Andrei Kostitsyn and Kaspars Daugavins.
While taking a deep dive into all 50 top scorers would undoubtedly excite the hockey geek inside all of us, we will instead focus on two former Toronto Maple Leafs who have risen even higher into the top 15. Both showed flashes of promise throughout their tenures with Toronto however things didn't end up working out for one reason or another.
We'll begin with the explosive winger pictured above—Nikita Soshnikov.
In his youth, Soshnikov wasn't really on the NHL prospect radar. He was born and raised in Nizhny Tagil, Russia and played for his hometown team, Sputnik Nizhny Tagil. Atlant Moscow decided to take a chance on him with the 123rd overall pick of the 2010 KHL Draft and he made his debut with their MHL affiliate (Atlanty Mytischi) the following season.
For those who aren't familiar with the various levels of Russian hockey, please see my explanation at the end of this article.
After amassing 146 points in 164 MHL games from 2010-14, he was promoted to Buran Voronezh of the VHL and quickly scored two goals and four points in four games. From there, he was subsequently recalled to play for Atlant Moscow and finished the 2013-14 season with just two goals and five points in his first 33 KHL games.
The now 21-year-old Russian took a step forward in his sophomore season racking up 32 points in 57 games with Atlant Moscow and drew interest from a few NHL teams. He ended up signing a three-year entry level contract (as an undrafted free agent) with the Leafs on March 20th, 2015 and began the year as a member of the Toronto Marlies.
His North American career began reasonably well as he recorded 18 goals and 28 points in 52 AHL games before earning the call to the big club. Soshnikov made his NHL debut on February 29th 2016 against the Tampa Bay Lightning but didn't score until two days later on March 2nd against the Washington Capitals. It was a goal that Leaf fans will never forget.
Nikita Soshnikov's First Career NHL Goal (Original Video—Shrewd Canadian YouTube Channel)
He finished the season with 2 goals and 5 assists through 11 NHL games and began next year with the Marlies again. Due to a clause in his contract, he needed to be called up to the Leafs by November 14th (or he was allowed to run off to the KHL) and on November 13th, he was.
The rest of the 2016-17 season was far from ideal as he only scored 5 goals and 9 points through 56 games and the 2017-18 season wasn't much better. After bouncing back and forth between the Leafs and Marlies for the better part of the year, Soshnikov was traded to the St. Louis Blues for a 4th-round pick on February 15th, 2018 and that was essentially the end of his NHL opportunity.
He would receive a chance with the Blues but injuries and inconsistency led to only two points in 17 games and after a brief stint with the San Antonio Rampage (St. Louis' AHL affiliate) in 2018-19, he headed back to Russia to refine his game in the KHL.
So far, he's managed to do just that as he currently sits 7th in league scoring with 27 goals and 48 points through 58 games as a member of Salavat Yulaev Ufa. They currently sit 3rd in the Chernyshev Division (and 6th in the conference) and should be a lock for the KHL playoffs.
Will Soshnikov take his team on a prolific playoff run before leveraging that success into another NHL contract? Will he return to the Leafs next year on cheap money and become a force on the 3rd line with Kerfoot and Kapanen? Speculation is fun, isn't it?
Pictured—Peter Holland celebrates Avtomobilist's victory over St. Petersburg (Original Photo—bestsport.news)
Next up on the docket is GTA native Peter Holland.
The left-handed centre grew up in Bolton, Ontario (just outside of Toronto) and was wowing people from the start. After racking up 59 goals and 60 assists in 60 games with the Brampton Junior Battalion (my hometown team) at 15 years old, he was taken 11th overall by the Guelph Storm in the 2007 OHL Priority Draft.
His junior career was well-followed as he recorded 258 points in 256 games with the Storm and appeared at multiple showcases including the OHL All-Star Game, the Canada-Russia Challenge, the 2009 World U18 Championships, and the 2009 CHL Top Prospects game.
He was selected 15th overall by the Anaheim Ducks at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and was sent back to Guelph for his final season. Beginning in 2011-12, Holland bounced between the Ducks and their AHL affiliates for the next two seasons.
Early into the 2013-14 season, he was dealt to the Leafs in exchange for defensive prospect Jesse Blacker and two draft picks. He scored his first goal as a Leaf just five days later against the Nashville Predators.
He finished the year with 10 goals and 10 assists in 54 games between the Leafs and Marlies and signed a two-year extension on July 16th, 2014 ($775,000 AAV). He re-signed again (one-year, $1.3M contract) after the 2015-16 season.
He fared reasonably well for the Leafs given his price tag with back-to-back 25+ point seasons playing various roles before being dealt once more to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional draft pick on December 9th 2016. A condition that was never upheld oddly enough.
From there, he bounced around between the NHL and the AHL playing for multiple teams between 2017 and 2019 including the Laval Rocket, the New York Rangers, the Hartford Wolf Pack, and the Rockford IceHogs.
Fast-forward to the present season. Holland has decided to try his hand overseas and currently plays for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL. The move has been a positive one so far as he sits 14th in KHL scoring with 43 points in 60 games.
His efforts have certainly helped his club's postseason push as he sits third on the team in scoring while his team continues to hold down the second spot in the Kharlamov Division.
Perhaps this isn't the last we've seen of Holland either. By the way, do you know who leads his team in scoring? Nigel Dawes.
The KHL is truly a treasure box when it comes to former NHL players.
Russian Hockey League Explanation: The MHL is essentially the OHL of Eurasia. The league features 33 teams from 4 different countries and players cannot be older than 20. All but one MHL team is linked to a KHL or VHL team for development purposes. The VHL is the second highest level of Russian hockey. Some VHL teams are linked to parent KHL teams to serve as feeder clubs and some remain independent. The KHL is, of course, the top level of professional hockey in Eurasia.