While everyone was hyperfocused on every word and facial tic from the post-season press conferences today, the Leafs also made an announcement.
Peksa is a Russian goalie prospect who was drafted as a one year overager in 2021. He's since had some stellar seasons in the MHL and VHL, with a heavy workload to boot. This past season he was a full time starter for Bars Kazan in the VHL – Russia's semi-pro league – where he had a .921 sv% in 40 games. He tied for the third most games in the VHL, and was 22nd in save percentage. For U21 goalies, he had the most starts (by a lot) and the 4th best save percentage.
It is curious that Toronto signed him and not Artur Akthyamov, who is a year older but had an even better season in the VHL, finishing tied for the best sv% while only playing one fewer game.
Here's what I wrote about Peksa back in December after watching a bunch of his games:
When I’ve watched Peksa, I’ve mostly noticed two things in comparison to Akhtyamov. First, he doesn’t quite have the same level of rebound control and calmness in the crease. Second, despite not being as “calm” I wouldn’t say he’s just chaos. He definitely seems more active and willing to move around, but it does have an element of control. He is quick with his movements and still good at getting square to shooters. He is very athletic and better able to fall back on emergency/recovery saves. The downside is that, without the tight rebound control, he has to rely on that a lot more often than Akhtyamov.
I would say that Peksa has better physical tools, and if he can improve on his reads of the play and rebound control more then he could have a higher ceiling as a result. He is certainly having a better rookie-VHL season than Akhtyamov did last year at the same age.
We're going to want to see Peksa get some playing time in the KHL to really assess what we have in him, or maybe he'll make the jump to North America – no idea what his contract situation is. We'll just have to see!
Welcome to the Maple Leafs, Peksa!