One of the players the Toronto Maple Leafs lost during the offseason was Ilya Mikheyev. The Soup Man, as Mikheyev came to be known because, in his first interview with the Maple Leafs, he wondered why Canadians didn’t like soup, was a fan favourite. He was full of personality and simply had a joyful spirit.
However, Mikheyev also suffered some tough injuries with the team. He had sliced his wrist in a game against the New Jersey Devils; and, that injury took a long time to heal. He also had other injuries to his hands that made his shooting difficult.
However, during his last season with the Maple Leafs, he had become a key player. He had become so good that he had priced himself out of a continued job with the team. Simply stated, the team was unable to put together a package that would have come close to matching what Mikheyev was going to invite on the open market.
That’s what happened. Mikheyev signed with the Vancouver Canucks for four years at $4.75 million per season.
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Ilya Mikhehev’s Background with the Maple Leafs
Mikheyev was signed by the Maple Leafs as an undrafted player in May 2019. He had successful KHL experience, proving himself as a scorer with Avangard Omsk. With that team, his coach was former Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley. Mikheyev’s teammates also included former Maple Leafs’ players Cody Franson and Victor Stalberg.
However, even with this KHL experience, Mikheyev came to the NHL as a raw talent. While Mikheyev’s defensive play was always strong and his speed helped him overcome on-ice mistakes, it was his scoring that invited the Cancks to offer him just south of $5 million per season. That scoring took time to develop. His only 20-goal season was in 2021-22.
How Has Mikheyev’s Season Gone Thus Far in Vancouver?
With teams shut down for the Christmas break, it seemed like a good time to ask how Mikheyev’s season is going so far with the Canucks. The truth is that it started slowly. Mikheyev suffered an upper-body (some reports were that it was a lower-body) injury in early October that deferred his Canucks’ debut.
Mikheyev missed three straight games for his new team. Finally taken off injured reserve on October 18, he played his first game of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He scored his first point of the season in late October with a power-play assist in a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
Mikheyev saw mainly top-six minutes after his return from injury and cashed in with two goals against the Seattle Kraken in a 5-4 Canucks win in late October. One of those goals was on the power play. In the team’s next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mikheyev registered two assists. That gave him multiple points in two games in succession.
In a win over the Anaheim Ducks, Mikheyev extended his scoring success by registering an assist that brought him to two goals and four assists over six games. He was beginning to look more confident as he became more used to his new team.
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Mikheyev Is a Regular on the Canucks Second Line
Mikheyev has been used regularly on the team’s second line. As November began, he became a regular on the Canucks’ scoresheet. He scored three goals and added three assists in five games. Then Mikheyev went four games without a point. But, in late November he put together a three-game point streak when he scored a goal against the Colorado Avalanche.
Over the first 17 games of his Canucks’ career, he scored five goals and added six assists (for 11 points). It was close to the 21 goals and 32 points he had put together in his 53 games with the Maple Leafs last season.
Mikheyev’s November was a bit streaky even though he played top-six minutes. However, on December 5, after being held off the scoresheet in the last three games, he scored two goals in a 7-6 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens.
On December 19, he scored his team’s only goal in a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Then, during his last game before the Christmas break, Mikheyev scored against the Edmonton Oilers in his team’s comeback 5-2 win.
Where Mikheyev Stands Now on the Season with the Canucks
As it stands now on the season, Mikheyev has scored 11 goals and added seven assists (for 18 points) in 30 games. In summary, it’s been an up-and-down season so far in Vancouver. He continues to show good speed and great defence. He’s also on the way to 25 goals, which isn’t bad for a second-line winger.
So far, the Canucks’ hope for a breakout season for Mikheyev has not yet materialized. We’ll see what the rest of the season brings. If Mikheyev can become more consistent and less streaky a scorer, he’ll help his team as they make a playoff push.
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