The Toronto Maple Leafs lost a key roster member at the very end of training camp, as Ilya Mikheyev went down with a hand injury in the final preseason game. Today, 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 UFA 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 into 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.