Expectations and goals for every goaltender on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Alex Hobson1 month ago
Welcome to a new series here at The Leafs Nation, where we’ll take a look at each and every player on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart, players and prospects alike, and see what their expectations and goals should be in 2023-24.
To kick off the series, we’re going to start between the pipes. The Maple Leafs have had some good goaltenders in recent years, but the position has been one of inconsistency, to say the least. While they got some longevity out of Frederik Andersen and some pretty high peaks from Jack Campbell, neither goalie lasted in Toronto.
That said, they took a couple of gambles in the crease last season, and they seemed to work, at least one of them. With Luke Schenn and Justin Holl (like it or not, he ate a ton of penalty kill minutes) out the door on the back end and players like Ryan O’Reilly, Alex Kerfoot, and Noel Acciari doing the same up front, the Maple Leafs arguably got a little worse defensively this offseason. That said, what they have right now should be good enough to start the season at least, and they should have some solid support to count on in the crease.
Ilya Samsonov – NHL Starter
When I say the Maple Leafs took a couple of gambles in net this year, the signing of Samsonov was one of low-risk. Most people seemed to be on board with it, but the fact that he would be competing for a job with the injury-riddled and more expensive Matt Murray is what made fans nervous. That said, Samsonov stepped up for his new team right out of the gates, and ensured that at least one of the gambles paid off.
With a record of 27-10-5 complemented by a save percentage (SV%) of .919 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.33, as well as the benefit of being the goaltender between the pipes when the Maple Leafs finally got out of the first round, they really couldn’t have asked for much more out of Samsonov. He had his rough stretches like any other goaltender, but overall he stood tall when they needed him to.
With arbitration leading to a new one-year contract worth $3.55 million for Samsonov, the pressure is now on him to maintain his success from last season. Not just for the team’s sake, but for his own sake. If he can replicate his success, you can imagine the Maple Leafs will want to re-sign him, but even if they don’t, there will probably be a cluster of teams looking to lock the 26 year-old up long term.
Joseph Woll – NHL Backup
With Matt Murray starting the season on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), Woll is going to get his first real crack at a consistent NHL job, and after his 2022-23 performance, he deserves it. He put up Vezina-esque numbers in the AHL, with a SV% of .927 and a GAA of 2.37, and impressed in a small sample size with the Maple Leafs too, sporting an even better SV% of .932 and GAA of 2.16, albeit in only seven games.
He was also called upon for some unexpected playoff action in Round 2 after Samsonov went down with an injury, and gave them a rock solid performance until they were eliminated in game 5.
While Woll is likely going to get a backup goaltender’s workload, the expectation is for him to maintain some sort of success and give the Maple Leafs a reliable option should Samsonov get hurt, much like the ask for any other goaltender. A .932 SV% over a larger body of games would be incredible, but not realistic. If he can keep it above .910, that would be more than acceptable.
Matt Murray – Wildcard
I’ll be totally honest, I have no idea what to expect from Murray this year. In a bit of a surprise move, he was transferred to LTIR shortly after Samsonov’s new contract was announced. In the team’s exit interviews, he said that he was good to go had he been called upon, but then again, being “good to go” in the middle of the playoffs is not the same as being good to go for the start of the season. Besides, LTIR transactions have to be approved by league-appointed doctors, so there’s a good chance Murray actually has a nagging injury.
How the Maple Leafs use him this season is beyond me. It’s hard to believe he’ll be injured all the way through the season, but they won’t have the cap space to fit him in unless they move somebody. I believe they’ll try to find a trade partner at some point should he get healthy, probably to a non-playoff team looking to take on bad contracts, but when or if that will even happen is up in the air. Overall, I don’t think anyone has any clue what to expect from the Murray saga.
Dennis Hildeby – Battle for AHL starts
Hildeby is an interesting prospect and one I’m going to be keeping a close eye on this season. Drafted as an overage goaltender in the 2021 draft, the 6-foot-6 Swede impressed playing pro in his home country last season, putting together a record of 11-9-0 with a GAA of 2.26 and a SV% of .918 for Farjestad BK of the SHL. The 21 year-old also got two games in with the Marlies, but got shelled.
This season, he’ll have a fresh start and a true opportunity to get used to North American ice. He’ll be competing for a job with Keith Petruzzelli, who we’ll cover shortly, and while it’s unknown what his ceiling is in comparison to his fellow goaltending prospects, he’s got some intriguing potential.
Due to his age and lack of experience in North America, he could start as the backup goalie, but there’s reason to believe he and Petruzzelli will push each other and compete for playing time instead of going with the traditional starter/backup titles. I wouldn’t expect him to challenge for any NHL playing time this season, but it’s an achievable goal within the next few years.
Keith Petruzzelli – Battle for AHL starts
It’s pretty safe to say that Petruzzelli and Hildeby are going to make up the Marlies’ goaltending tandem this season, and while I’d likely give the edge to Petruzzelli out of training camp due to his experience, I definitely don’t think one should be given full reign to the crease. The Maple Leafs signed the 24 year-old as an undrafted prospects after four seasons at Quinnipac University in which he steadily improved each year.
In 25 games with the Marlies, he had a record of 13-8-2 with a .909 SV% and a 2.90 GAA. Not great, but certainly good enough to suggest he can improve on those numbers this season. He was briefly called up to the Maple Leafs while they battled injuries in the crease, but didn’t get into any games. I expect him and Hildeby to push each other in 2023-24, with whoever has the edge potentially looking at an NHL game or two depending on the health of the NHL goaltenders.
Artur Akhtyamov – Develop/Battle for playing time in Russia
A fourth round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2020, Akhtyamov has a limited sample of pro hockey, but his performance in Russia’s second-tier league bodes well for a step forward this season. In 39 games with Neftyanik Almetievsk of the VHL, he finished with a whopping .943 SV%, best in the league, and a GAA of 1.74.
After signing his entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs in early July, it was reported that he would be returning to Russia to compete for playing time with Ak Bars Kazan, the KHL club that holds his rights. If he becomes something it would be great for Toronto, but they aren’t exactly in dire need of a goaltending prospect now, so there’s no rush for Akhtyamov to develop. His focus in 2023-24 should just be honing his skills and giving himself a chance to develop.
Vyacheslav Peksa – Develop/Battle for playing time in Russia
The Maple Leafs’ third and final pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, Peksa is strikingly similar to Akhtyamov both in terms of their frame and performance to date. He had a losing record in 40 games for Bars Kazan of the VHL at 13-19-6, but his individual stats didn’t reflect the record, with a .921 SV% and a GAA of 2.34.
While we don’t know exactly where Peksa will be playing next season, he will more than likely find himself on a loan with a KHL team, and should that be the case, his goal in 2023-24 should be the same as Akhtyamov’s; improve his game. Both goaltenders carry some potential, but are both a long way out from sniffing the NHL.
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