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Friedman: Leafs Have Verbal Commitment From KHL Defender Ozhiganov

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The Leafs’ latest pursuit of an overseas defender appears to be on track.

2012 World Junior Hockey Championships - Gold Medal Game - Russia v Sweden Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

In his 31 Thoughts column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gives an update on the ongoing Igor Ozhiganov story:

Just wanted to tie a final bow on something that’s been in this blog a couple of times. Other NHL teams have been told Toronto has a verbal commitment from Russian defenceman Igor Ozhighanov. He can sign after April 30.

Ozhiganov is a right-shooting, 25-year-old defenceman currently with CSKA Moscow. He’s reasonably big, can be physical (sometimes to a fault), and has a booming shot. On the other hand, he hasn’t always gotten a regular shift; he’s cropped up in our Euro report on occasion lately, and he hasn’t exactly dazzled (0G/3A in 25 GP this season, and he’s been outperformed on CSKA by former Leaf castoff Alexey Marchenko.) Ozhiganov isn’t poised to be an addition on the level of Nikita Zaitsev, and at his age, we probably have to keep any expectations of growth modest.

Still, the Leafs have seen something they’ve liked, and Toronto is clearly determined to fully explore every avenue for improving their team. If Ozhiganov has the tools to make the jump to the NHL—and projecting the KHL > NHL transition is by no means an exact science—he could be a valuable addition.