When the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie Ilya Samsonov was injured, the organization quickly signed Toronto Marlies’ goalie Keith Petruzzelli to his first NHL contract. It was an ELC (Entry-Level Contract) for two years.
Just this morning, the news of the Maple Leafs’ practices suddenly wasn’t as dire as once expected. It seems that both Samsonov and the other injured Maple Leafs’ goalie Matt Murray might be close to returning. It was reported that Murray would fully practice today with the team, and Samsonov wouldn’t be far behind.
It seems as if the panic being generated by some Maple Leafs’ writers might have just been a way to stir up the fanbase with a little bit of clickbait.
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Petruzzelli Might Play this Weekend
In the absence of both Samsonov and Murray, Erik Kallgren jumped into the mix and has actually played well – just as he did last season. Looking ahead, unless there’s a miraculous recovery by either Murray or Samsonov, bet on Kallgren getting the team’s next start against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Then expect that Petruzzelli will make his NHL debut against the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
So, who is Keith Petruzzelli? And, what should Maple Leafs’ fans know about and expect from him?
Petruzzelli’s Recent Hockey Background
During the 2016-17 season, Petruzzelli played with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. Obviously, he played well enough because (in an NHL where goalies are seldom chosen high in the draft), he was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Petruzzelli then went to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, to play NCAA hockey. For those who’ve never heard of Quinnipiac University, it’s a private liberal arts university that has a strong academic reputation. Academically, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranks Quinnipiac among the top colleges and universities in the United States.
As an aside, Quinnipiac University is a beautiful little university in rural Connecticut. The university is named after the Quinnipiac People, who are part of the Native American nation and a member of the Algonquian family.
During Petruzzelli’s career at Quinnipiac, he was the ECAC Goaltender of the Year as a senior in 2020-21. He also ranked seventh in the NCAA Division I hockey with a goals-against-average of 1.89. He was selected as a 2021 Hobey Baker Award Top 10 Finalist. Petruzzelli also was a Mike Richter Award Finalist. His career NCAA record was 51-27-8.
When the Red Wings Didn’t Sign Him, the Maple Leafs Swooped In
After having a strong four-year university career, it was a bit of a surprise that the Red Wings didn’t sign him. He was their third-round pick in 2017 (88th overall); at least at one time, he was considered the Red Wings’ top goalie prospect. Whatever happened, after his NHL rights expired on August 15, 2021, the Maple Leafs swooped in and signed him almost immediately.
In 2021, Petruzzelli began his ECHL with the Newfoundland Growlers. He was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Month for October. Over the course of last season with the Growlers, he put up a record of 16-6-1, with a goals-against-average of 2.01, and a save percentage of .927.
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So Far, This Season with the Toronto Marlies
During his time with the Marlies this season, Petruzzelli registered a perfect 6-0-0 record. His goals-against-average is 2.31, and his save percentage is .922. As noted, there’s a chance Maple Leafs’ fans will see him manning the crease this weekend.
Currently, none of the three goalies Murray (injured groin), Samsonov (injured knee), or even last season’s surprise Joseph Woll (out with an injured shoulder) are available. As a result, Petruzzelli immediately was placed on the team’s NHL roster and served as backup to Kallgren Sunday in Carolina and last night against the Vegas Golden Knights.
There’s no doubt that Petruzzelli was in the Maple Leafs’ plans, but not for this season. I would guess the team hoped to bring him along more slowly. And, perhaps they still will.
If he does start on Saturday, it might be a one-off with the other goalies returning to game action next week. Still, it will be fun for the fans to see this tall (6-foot-6) lanky (185 pounds) goalie in action. The word on Petruzzelli is that he makes the first save easily and has good positioning, but he needs work moving from side to side in the crease.
Yes, he might be a bit rough around the creases (pun intended), but he’s going to be fun to watch develop.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Unusual Goalie Situation: Kallgren & Petruzzelli