Leaf of the Day - Mar 5, 2009 - Nik Antropov

Editor's Note: For future reference, this is a great way to get in my good books. Front paged because I love Antropov and I will miss him. It's sad that he priced himself out of a future with the Leafs but he can show us how much he loves the city and the team by coming home July 1st.

Mar 5, 2009 - Nik Antropov


The Leafs went off the board in 1998 and took Nik Antropov 10th overall.  Rumours abounded at the time that there was a very unhappy group of Oiler execs (drafting #11, I believe, I could look it up but I won't) who had thought that nobody else had been looking at him.  There might have been safer picks, but the Leafs liked what they saw in this big kid from Kazakhstan, and from that day, the term "lanky Kazakh" was added to the Leaf lexicon.

Nik surprised pretty much everyone by making the team in 1999-2000.  He didn't play a ton, but got a nice hat trick against the Panthers.  There was room to hope.

The problem with Nik was the same thing that beset a number of other high Leaf picks - injuries.  The first one was a knee that blew out in Ottawa.  By the time he was about 24, he'd had major surgery on both knees and one shoulder.  Big guys tend to look slow to begin with, and knee trouble made Antropov look positively glacial at times.  He had a good 2002-03 season with 16 goals and 45 points, but didn't seem to take off from there.

As a result of his struggles, Antropov became a target for the boo birds and there were occasions where the biggest cheers of the night would be when he was listed as a scratch during the warmups.

He turned it around, though.  Playing with Sundin and Ponikarovsky helped, but being healthy for the first time in his career was a bigger factor.  Over the past 2-3 seasons he won over most of his detractors and was generally considered amongst the Leafs' better forwards.

30-odd games into this season, Nik was a point-per-game player.  He hit a huge drought in December/January that seemed to do him no favours with management.  There has been a lot of criticism of Burke announcing his displeasure with Nik, but he never said Nik wouldn't get a contract offer.  What he said was that Nik wouldn't merit a contract offer the way he was playing.  He was not incorrect in this.  The statement put the onus on Nik to earn his next deal, if he wanted it. 

We don't know whether there was much contract talk or not.  After being relatively cheap for most of his career, there were rumblings that he wanted a bigger deal and the odds of that happening here were remote.

So today is Nik's first full day as a Ranger, where he is now their leading goal-scorer and one point away from being their best point-getter.  There were those who thought he would bring a first-round pick (or more) in return.  Hard to imagine, though.  The big packages for players like Kaberle were driven not just by the calibre of player but by the contracts they had.  When the Leafs were paying high prices for Brian Leetch, he still had a year left on his deal.  Nik Antropov is under contract for the next 18 games plus whatever the Rangers do in the offseason.  They also get negotiating rights until July 1.  I can't see that being worth that much more than a second plus a conditional.

Anyway, good luck, Nik.  Hope it works out for you and we'll see what the summer brings.

Nik's stats:

1996-97  Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk   Russia-2   8 2 1 3 6          
1996-97  Kazakhstan  WJC-B  6 1 0 1 4
1997-98  Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk  Russia-2  42 15 24 39 62
1997-98  Kazakhstan  WJC-A  7 0 6 6 8
1997-98  Kazakhstan  EJC-D  5 23 31 54
1998-99  Dynamo Moscow  Russia  30 5 9 14 30 11 0 1 1 4
1998-99  Dynamo Moscow  EuroHL  5 3 1 4 10 3 0 0 0 0
1998-99  Kazakhstan  WJC-A  6 3 5 8 14
1999-00  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  66 12 18 30 41 +14 3 0 0 0 4
1999-00  St. John's Maple Leafs  AHL  2 0 0 0 4 0
2000-01  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  52 6 11 17 30 +5 9 2 1 3 12
2001-02  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  11 1 1 2 4 -1          
2001-02  St. John's Maple Leafs  AHL  34 11 24 35 47 9
2002-03  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  72 16 29 45 124 +11 3 0 0 0 0
2003-04  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  62 13 18 31 62 +7 13 0 2 2 18
2004-05  Ak Bars Kazan  Russia  10 2 3 5 6
2004-05  Lokomotiv Yaroslavl  Russia  26 4 15 19 44 9 3 4 7 18
2005-06  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  57 12 19 31 56 +13          
2005-06  Kazakhstan  Olympics  5 1 0 1 4
2006-07  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  54 18 15 33 44 +8          
2007-08  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  72 26 30 56 92 +10          
2008-09  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  63 21 25 46 24 -13          
Leaf/NHL Totals    509 125 166 291 477 +54 28 2 3 5 34

- Signed as a free agent by Kazan (Russia), October 27, 2004.
- Signed as a free agent by Yaroslavl (Russia), December 20, 2004.
- Traded to New York Rangers by Toronto for New York's second-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft and a conditional pick, March 4, 2009.

the HHOF take on Nik: 

The Toronto Maple Leafs surprised many hockey observers when they drafted big center Nik Antropov tenth overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Though NHL Central Scouting had him pegged as the 17th best European available, the Leafs made him the second European drafted and made it quite clear they felt they'd secured the sleeper of the draft.

Antropov, a towering 6'5 forward, hails from Kazakhstan, a region that is not often heavily scouted. Though the Maple Leafs drew criticism for the first round gamble, many critics were quickly silenced when after just two games in the minors Antropov was called up by the Maple Leafs --- and stayed with them for the full campaign.

Antropov made an immediate impression during his rookie season, accumulating 30 points as a rookie. However, his rookie season ended on a sour note, when he blew out his knee in a playoff game against the Ottawa Senators.

During his second season Antropov's totals dipped when he scored just six goals and 17 points, though he was recovering from the knee surgery. In order to regain some conditionning, Antropov was assigned to St. John's. Once in St. John's, Antropov regained his confidence and began to score at an impressive clip posting 35 points in 34 games. However, bad luck struck again and once again, Antropov suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As the 2002-03 season began, many wondered what Antropov's future would hold. Early indications dictated how the hulking forward's season would go, as Antropov utilized his size and strength in the corners to create room for himself and his fellow linemates and thus established personal bests in goals (16), assists (29) and points (45).

Before travelling overseas during the NHL lockout to compete with both Ak Bars Kazan and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Antropov would miss 20 NHL games during the 2003-04 season with the Maple Leafs due to a shoulder injury. He suffered through two more injury plagued seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 with unrelated injuries but returned in 2007-08 relatively healthy.

In his second season of a two-year contact with the Maple Leafs, Antropov set new career highs with 26 goals, 30 assists for 56 points in his 72 games played.

On the international stage, Antropov represented his native country Kazakhstan in the 2006 Winter Olympcis in Turin.


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