Maple Leafs rookie Nikita Soshnikov won’t be forgetting his first NHL goal anytime soon.
The 22-year-old Russian winger scored the first goal of his big league career Wednesday only two games into his first shot at playing with the big club. Even if Soshnikov didn’t see the puck cross the line, he, like everyone else within earshot, heard the puck make its way into the net.
In the second frame of Toronto’s tilt with Washington, Soshnikov was given a short pass from Nazem Kadri and the Maple Leafs entered the Capitals’ zone on a 3-on-2. Soshnikov had Peter Holland streaking down the left wing, but Soshnikov instead chose to put his head down, pull the puck back and absolutely wire a wrist shot that went off the post and in. Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer didn’t have a chance:
If you need any indication how sweet Soshnikov’s shot was, listen to Sportsnet color commentator and former NHLer Mike Johnson after Soshnikov goes bar and in. The “Ooh!” is well deserved. As was Soshnikov’s celebration, which saw him slam chest first into the glass before letting out a cheer and spinning circles in the air with his finger. Kadri couldn’t help but laugh.
Soshnikov has had an impressive 12-plus months. Since March 20, 2015, he has signed a three-year deal with the Maple Leafs as an undrafted free agent, debuted in North America with the Toronto Marlies, scored his first career AHL goal, made his NHL debut and scored his first big league goal.
He doesn’t have the hype surrounding him of a William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen, but Soshnikov is no slouch and could be a big part of the Maple Leafs for years to come. In the AHL, Soshnikov had 18 goals and 28 points in 50 games before being called up and he’s coming off of a 14-goal, 32-point season in the KHL.