Reading the Tea Leafs: Nikolai Antropov

Following on the success of two other dormant series Chemmy and I have decided that in order to fill the gap in NHL news that we'll take a look at each of the current Leafs, possible Leafs on the Marlies, and prospects. We'll recap their performance last year, what we can expect from them, and how they can win our hearts (hint: signing the contract was a good first step...unless your name is Bryan McCabe). We have no idea how long of a series this will end up being or how consistent it will be but with two of us expect it to only be half as half-assed and twice as timely.

Antropov_medium

Nik Antropov, seen here trying his best to keep Sundin in Toronto, is up first after the jump.

Contract Status (according to NHL Numbers)
$2.15M salary, $2.05M cap hit, UFA July 1, 2009

Age (as of October 1, 2008)
28 February 28, 1980

NHL Seasons
Eight

Run of the Mill Biographical Information

2007-2008 Stats and Team Ranking

(Scoring rates via Behind The Net)

Counting Stats Total/Rank Category 5-on-5 5-on-4 4-on-5
Games Played 72 - 8 TOI/60 13.58 - 9 3.39 - 4 2.36 - 5
Goals 26 - 2 Pts/60 2.33 - 2 3.69 - 10 0.35 - 3
Assists 30 - 4 GFON/60 3.31 - 2 6.89 - 4 0.71 - 4
Points 56 - 2 GAON/60 2.64 - 18 0.74 - 15 6.35 - 13

Marital Status
Married to Lena with two kids. A son named Danil and a daughter named Nicole.

Former Leaf he'd have to play like in order to be christened a deity
Is there a former Leaf that could offer what Antro does in such a large package? Hopefully this get easier as we go along...

Biggest Question Marks
Can he avoid injuries as he finally did last season? 

2007-2008 Summary
Last season marked the point in Antropov's career when the flashes of potential that his many defenders (read: me) pointed towards finally melded with the reality of sustained production in the NHL. After years of watching him return from numerous injuries, including two rebuilt knees, Antropov put his physical gifts together for an entire season that matched the tease that Leaf fans had felt in the post-Olympic run to the playoffs when the trio of Poni-Sundin-Antro almost singlehandedly dragged the Leafs into the playoffs.
 
He set career highs in goals, assists, and points while matching the most games played in a season with 72. It would have been a career high but he managed to get suspended three games for expressing his displeasure with the referees during this game against the Hurricanes. While Antropov did have one terrible cold streak (December 18 - January 10) he was remarkably consistent. He scored at least a point in 36 of the 72 games in which he played.  

The key to Antropov's season was his realization that he is freaking huge. His best hockey came when he was using his massive frame to dictate the play or using his reach, combined with some soft hands, to frustrate defenders. His play last season was so strong that the mere suggestion that he be traded made Uncle Cliff note that he'd better be getting a franchise player in return. JFJ can point to his contract as one in which he wasn't bent over a barrel but, in hindsight, would a five year commitment have been that bad?

Projected 2008-2009 role/team
Obviously he'll be with the Leafs but the size of his role is to be determined. The powerplay was at its best when it had the Soviet Bloc in front of the goalie and I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilson use at least Antro as a pillar on the first unit. What is less appreciated is how much Antropov's reach helps to make him an effective penalty killer. Despite playing the 5th most minutes he was on the ice for the 13th fewest goals.

The balance of trying to get Antropov the most offensive opportunities will likely mean that he won't be spending much time killing penalties. Nik will either centre the top line or ride shotgun with Mats. He'll definitely be depended upon to at least match his points totals from last year while shouldering a much bigger leadership role. 

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