TORONTO– Mike Zigomanis has found a glimmer of hope through the NHL lockout.
The 31-year-old hasn’t seen any NHL action since suiting up for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, and since then has played with their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.
But, with the AHL now the centre of attention in Toronto, in terms of available hockey, Zigomanis hopes to use this chance to show NHL managers that he still can play at the top level.
“I’m still looking to play,” said Zigomanis. “When the lockout ends I plan to be one of those guys getting brought up. Once the NHL starts teams will be looking for players. It’s a great situation to be here during the lockout. For guys who are on the bubble, I think they’ll get a really good look.”
Zigomanis has led the Marlies in many statistical categories in his two full years with the club, including scoring, but never made the type of impact that forced the Leafs to bring him back up after his final demotion in October of 2010.
This past July he signed to stay in Toronto, but instead of an NHL two-way contract that he had previously, he signed an AHL deal. By signing an AHL deal, it would be easy to think he has closed the door on returning to the NHL, but both sides were able to find a way to benefit. Toronto didn’t have to count Zigomanis against their cap of 50 NHL contracts and Zigomanis’ rights are open to another club if he was ready to return to the NHL.
“I think it worked well for both sides,” he said. “It frees them up a spot to sign an NHL guy and allows me, if I want to go to a spot and play somewhere, to sign an NHL contract. I got that option.”
The Marlies have options down the middle this season and, including Zigomanis, have five everyday centremen wanting to dress. Keith Aucoin, Joe Colborne, Will Acton and rookie Greg McKegg will all be on the opening day’s roster so head coach Dallas Eakins has already experimented with some position changes.
“I played wing at camp for one of the exhibition games,” said Zigomanis.” I’m comfortable there and I’m ready for whatever they want me to do. It’s just one of those things you have to be ready at any situation of the game.”
Zigomanis also saw some time on the wing during last post-season, but Eakins plans to use him for what he’s best at.
“We’re going to start him at centre and hopefully leave him there,” said Eakins. “Moving Mike Zigomanis is sometimes comical when you can argue he’s the best face-off man in both leagues.”
Zigomanis has been in pro hockey for 11 seasons and has played a total of 197 NHL games split between Toronto, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, St Louis and Carolina. He’s also played another 459 AHL games, combined between four clubs, and a season in Sweden.
At the AHL level he’s always been a two-way forward that can contribute offensively. His time in the NHL, though, has been focused on more of a defensive game, which has turned into his biggest asset.
If the NHL becomes a reality for Zigomanis, it’ll be to fill a void on the bottom end of a line up, not to score goals. But, that’s something he’s okay with considering he’s used those skills to accomplish more than some ever expected.
“I Just want to fall into that face-off, penalty-kill kind a guy (role),” said Zigomanis.”I still think I can contribute at that level at that position. Teams are going a lot younger in the last five six years but I was told my career was done six or seven times already. I was never even supposed to play Midget so I’m a keep on going with it.”