Scouting Report: What free agent Maxim Tsyplakov could bring the Toronto Maple Leafs
By Steven Ellis16 days ago
It’s that time of year again.
The KHL is in its final weeks of the 2023-24 regular season, with contracts set to expire at the end of April. That means attention will soon turn to which free agents could make the move to the NHL for next season – and the Toronto Maple Leafs are supposedly in on the biggest name of all.
According to The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke, Toronto is among a handful of teams interested in top Maxim Tsyplakov, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger with Spartak Moskva. He’s having a breakthrough season, scoring a career-best 30 goals and 45 points in 58 games. For reference, he never had more than 25 points in a single KHL season, so the offensive explosion comes as a bit of a surprise.
You don’t score 30 goals by accident, and Tsyplakov is one of the best at getting pucks where they need to be. He has an accurate shot that he puts significant power behind. The big forward has figured out how to use his size and strength to his advantage this year, both with and without the puck. He plays with an edge, and while he’s set to break his personal best in PIM, he’s not going hunting out there.
Tsyplakov’s shooting percentage stands at 19.9 this season – far behind his previous best of 7.1 last year. He’s also averaging 2.6 shots per game and a personal high of 17:50 ice time per game. Tsyplakov excels on the power play because he can unleash a shot in open ice, and that could make him a potential option for Toronto’s second PP unit next year.
Just in his last 10 games, Tsyplakov’s play has been exceptional. Tsyplakov has eight goals on 21 shots to help give him 13 points in that span – largely aided by a four-goal performance late last month.
Tysplakov has bounced around Spartak’s lineup occasionally this year, but he has spent significant time with two former NHLers – Nikolay Goldobin (the team’s top player) and Andrei Lotkinov. But again, you don’t score 30 without being competent. There’s still room to improve. He’s a good skater, but lacks a bit of high-end speed. He won’t win you 1-on-1 battles against quick, smart defenders. Tsyplakov is a finisher, and his ability to drive to the net and win phyiscal battles could be useful in Toronto’s middle six.
If the Leafs end up signing Tsyplakov, it won’t be to stick him with the Marlies. But they’d be banking on him being a sustainable offensive fixture after just one good season in the KHL. That’s the thing – there’s size and skill, but he hasn’t shown in spades before 2023-24. It seems likely Tsyplakov would factor into the team’s right side behind Mitch Marner and William Nylander, playing a heavier game compared to the all-skill we’re used to seeing from the other two.
For your own sanity, temper your expectations. KHL stats can be a bit wonky at times. Defensive hockey isn’t the league’s forte, especially from forwards. There’s a reason so few of the European free-agent signings ever pan out. Even in Andrei Kuzmenko’s case, he looked incredible last year before finding himself in the press box on multiple occasions with the Canucks prior to the trade. In some cases, we’re talking about players who are starting to find their groove after 6-7 years of pro hockey.
So, let the speculation run wild. We know there’s legitimate interest in Toronto bringing him over, but there will be serious competition. It wouldn’t hurt to have some extra scoring depth, and there might still be some untapped potential for a guy riding a clear high right now.
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