It used to be a joke to call this year’s Leafs the Marlies. Now it’s pretty much a truth.
So many of the players in the Leafs’ youth movement have scored their first career NHL goal this season that the Leafs are going run out of tape. I stopped by Marlies practice and asked head coach Sheldon Keefe whose first NHL goal was his favourite so far.
At the time I’m writing this, five Leafs players have scored their first career NHL goal this season, and that’s a number that could still climb. Whose first goal was best? How about I freshen your memory.
The Swedish phenom's first stint in the NHL hasn't quite replicated his destruction of the American Hockey League. Nylander has managed to put up just two goals in his first 10 NHL games. After all, it's hard for a 19-year-old to find time and space in this league. On his first career NHL goal however, Nylander proved that when he gets that time, you're gonna pay.
While he may not have the profile or expectations of a first-round pick, the Leafs love this guy. The Leafs mentioned that Hyman's offensive game has come along nicely in the AHL this season and there have been flashes of that in the NHL so far. Will he score the prettiest goals? Probably not. They all look pretty on the scoreboard though.
The "Oh yeah that guy" of this list, Byron Froese isn't usually lumped in with the Leafs' youth movement and has been out for a while with injuries. He still scored his first NHL goal this year though. Not bad considering he began last season in the ECHL.
Brendan Leipsic has had a crazy 365 days or so. He was dealt to the Leafs in the trade that sent Cody Franson to Nashville, he got called up to play for the Leafs in an all-Canadian matchup against the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada, and everyone finally learned how to pronounce his name after he scored his first career NHL goal. It's a nice little display of hand-eye coordination but his parents' reaction in the stands steals the show. It was one of the best moments for the Leafs this season.
The man people have started calling "Leo Lite" has been quite the revelation. He's gone from free agent signing out of the KHL, to playing mostly a fourth-line role in the AHL, to skating on the Leafs' top line in less than a year. Is Soshnikov ready to be an NHL player full-time? His shot sure seems ready. His celly game does, too.
Who has scored your favourite first career NHL goal for the Leafs so far? Do you think there will be any more? A tally from Connor Brown, perhaps? The rest of the Leafs' season is basically an audition for 2016-17 so the young guns better make the most of it.