Person of interest: Maple Leafs forward Zach Sill

Sill had a handful of fights with Pittsburgh this season.

Before Wednesday’s trade, Zach Sill wasn’t exactly a household name for most hockey fans.

Frankly, it would be fair if you had never heard of Sill before he was included in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ deal to acquire Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So who exactly is this pesky forward that is likely to stay put in Toronto for the rest of the regular season?

Name: Zach Sill
Born: Truro, Nova Scotia
Age: 26
Shoots: Left
Height: 6’0, Weight: 200 lbs.
Drafted: N/A
Contract status: Entry-level deal ($550,000). Set to be UFA in 2015

Sill’s college hockey career got off to a strange start. As an 18-year-old, he received an indefinite suspension from the University of Maine after just six games and withdrew from the school for personal reasons, which are still unknown.

The following season, he started his QMJHL career with the Moncton Wildcats. Sill posted two solid campaigns there, being named best defensive forward in 2008-09 before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Sill tallied 27 goals, 50 points and 173 penalty minutes in 124 contests for the Wildcats.

He then played two seasons (134 games) with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – before landing a two-year entry-level deal in May of 2011.

Sill worked his way up the organization and made his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 16, 2013. He logged 9:10 of ice time, registering a couple of hits and playing some brief minutes on the penalty kill.

Before Wednesday’s trade, he was beginning to establish a role on the Penguins. Entering Tuesday, he had suited up in 10 of Pittsburgh’s past 14 games and his improved play kept veterans such as Steve Downie and Craig Adams out of the lineup.

“He’s a hard forechecker,” Penguins head coach Mike Johnston told local reporters earlier in the week. “He’s got energy. He skates well. He finishes his checks 100 percent of the time.”

Here’s a couple things to know about Sill:

He lacks offensive ability: Offence doesn’t come easy to Sill. It took him 47 NHL games to register his first career point and it took him 52 games to score his first NHL goal. Sill has just three points (one goal, two assists) in his entire 62-game NHL career.

However, towards the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh, he was starting to show improvement.

“Lately he’s done better,” Johnston told the The Tribune-Review earlier this week. “It’s not something we expect from him every night, but it’s something he needs to add to his game. He’s starting to get that.”

In Toronto, expect Sill to fill out a role in the bottom-six. As well, he could get some time on the penalty kill to replace Winnik.

Sill, a heart and soul type of player, had some fun at Dion Phaneuf’s expense during a Leafs-Penguins game in 2013.

He has great hands: No, this isn’t referring to his limited offensive skills. According to an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sill used to spend his off-seasons as a carpenter.

“My uncle was a carpenter, so I worked with him in the summers, building decks and houses and everything,” Sill told the Pittsburgh newspaper. “Shingling houses. It was a way to make money, and we were outside all the time. It was good.

“Whatever I do post-hockey,” he said, “is probably going to be something hands-on.”

Unlike former head coach Randy Carlyle, it’s a safe bet that Sill knows how to work the team toaster.

He isn’t afraid to throw down: Maybe it’s because he’s from the Maritimes, but Sill has had his fair share of fights throughout his hockey career.

Sill has racked up 60 penalty minutes in 42 games this season. According to, Sill has had five fights this season, including bouts with Clayton Stoner, Alex Chiasson, Michael Raffl, Ben Chairot, and Washington’s Tom Wilson.

Sill also fought with Troy Bodie in December of 2013 so they could have an interesting dynamic if they happen to be teammates later in the season.

If Sill continues to fight and work hard, he should become quite popular in Toronto. The city loves blue collar athletes.

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