October 26, 2015
TORONTO – Russian forward Nikita Soshnikov is starting to impress those around him in the Marlies locker room.
The 22-year-old winger got off to a relatively slow start with the Marlies. But he broke out this past weekend with two multi-point performances, including a two-goal game Sunday in a 3-1 win against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Soshnikov recorded his first AHL goal and added an assist two nights earlier in an 8-2 win over Rochester. It earned him high praise from head coach Sheldon Keefe.
“I thought he was our best player, best player on the ice for both teams,” Keefe told LeafsTV. “He’s getting better and better and I think that’s well in line with how comfortable he’s getting, not just with our team but the culture and the language.”
Keefe says it’s easy to see why Soshnikov’s game is starting to translate over here in North America after spending two seasons in the KHL.
“He’s on the puck hard, extremely strong for a smaller guy and has some skill too,” said Keefe.
Soshnikov, five-foot-11 185 pounds, has played with varying linemates through the first seven games of the year because Keefe must rotate bodies in and out due to the size of the roster.
In Toronto’s three-in-three set over the weekend, though, Soshnikov played the right side, with Frederik Gauthier at centre and veteran Richard Clune on left wing in every contest. Soshnikov had four points, Clune had a goal and three helpers and Gauthier scored his first AHL goal.
The veteran Clune appreciates what he sees in his teammate’s style of play.
“We’ve generated a lot of (offensive) zone time, he’s a phenomenal player, he’s got speed and he’s an emotional kid, which I like to see,” said Clune.
Last season Soshnikov caught the eye of Maple Leafs management after recording 14 goals and 32 points in 57 games with Moscow Oblast Atlant of the KHL. The two sides agreed to a three-year contract in March.
“We like his speed and his talent level, but also how competitive he is, the amount of work he’s put in over the summer is pretty impressive,” said Dubas, who serves as Marlies GM.
Soshnikov has three goals and four points in seven games on a team with a well-balanced offence. He’s tied for the team lead in goals with three other skaters, including William Nylander.
He’s averaging 2.29 shots on net per game, which is good for fourth amongst Marlies skaters despite seeing very little power-play time.
In between Toronto’s two victories, the Marlies dropped a 5-1 decision to the Binghamton Senators.
The club is 5-2-0 to open the season. Their next game is Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum against the Syracuse Crunch.