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"You heard it someplace, not here."
Few remember the promise that some scouts saw in this young behemoth when prior to his draft year, he led his country of Kazakhstan to a romp over Iceland in some international game in one of the low level groups. He scored 11 goals, 15 assists in a single game, and with that 6' 5" frame, and his youth, he seemed a sure bet for great things some day in the NHL.
Fast forward about 10 years and Nik is coming off his first good year in ages. He scored goals, played tough in front of the net many nights, and made the occasional highlight worthy pass...and biggest news of all - he stayed fairly healthy.
This year, he's wrapping up a contract with the Leafs and could be heading into free-agency. Cliff Fletcher while clearing house, has hung on to Antropov either because he likes what he sees, or because he thinks his trade value could go up, or (a skeptic might say)the timing of an Antropov trade would require other moves first.
Every year he's the center of trade rumors. Some in the Leafs' media circus label him as an underachiever, or over-valued. Yet those in the know say that other teams always bring up Nik Antropov as a name that intrigues them.
So, will Nik see a potential HUGE payday in a contract year and put it all together this season?
Here are the factors: He has the size, the skill and the opportunity. On some nights, he has the grit as well, but with such a long history of injuries, it has been common to see him holding back where other players might push things to the limit.
He has always had some success with Ponikarovsky, but another big factor has been the leadership and space provided by Mats Sundin. Playing with Mats means an extra split second to make your move, a little extra space from the defenders too. When not on the same line as Sundin, Nik found himself playing against the guys who weren't on the top checking line. Really, Antropov has never had to step out of some other player's shadow to lead a team. Unless there are changes up front, this seems like a year in which Antropov will be asked to lead and make some room and chances for other players.
With a team that is most generously labeled as "in transition" or "rebuilding", there isn't much help for the powerplay or much chance that the game plan will include chances for the style of play that would help Antropov to improve his stats.
Best guess seems to be that Nik's reach and penalty killing experience will fit well into a game plan that will attempt to cut goals against, reduce the space that opponents get and take more goals from breaks and turn-overs than set plays.
Taking all that into account, what am I predicting? Considering that major changes could be made before camp if a defenseman is dealt for a forward, or if Mats Sundin decides to return, we are basically looking at 2 or 3 different scenarios.
With no changes to the current roster (August 9th, 2008), I'd see Antropov's numbers coming in slightly below last year's levels. I'd also see him more likely to miss time due to injury as Wilson's style of game will see forwards getting more involved in situations where shots could be blocked, deflected or stray hits and hurts could more easily re-injure old wounds. He's also going to be facing better checkers most nights, with little help to dish the puck to.
If the Leafs were able to add a potent experienced forward to Antropov's line, then I would expect him to surpass last year's totals by 5 or even 10 goals. Once again - if he is able to stay healthy.
The bottom line is that the story remains to be written, and the team that goes into training camp will be the biggest factor in whether Antropov is given the chance to push for a big pay-day. Right now, the smart money would be looking elsewhere for a break-out player, but a single quality forward added to the Leaf's roster - or a trade to a deeper team, both could tilt the balance and give a much more favorable equation for Mr. Antropov.
Facing a possible big raise request, Fletcher might choose to move Nik early if it appears that his agent will push Antropov to free-agency in search of the "Mother Lode", teams like Washington, Rangers, Philly, Anaheim, and others have all been rumored to covet him in the past, and many more teams would kill for a guy who can play center and use his size to full advantage....a list of teams too long to mention may just see some potential if the Leafs are considering a move.
Filed Under:   Toronto   Antropov   Capitals   Rangers   Flyers   Ducks   Sundin  
August 10, 2008 2:10 PM ET | Delete
I have a feeling Nik will be moved with McCabe for a 1st line centre or a second line player and picks/prospects.
August 10, 2008 7:50 PM ET | Delete
I didn't even have to finish reading this and I was discusted...Antropov is worthless in my opinion....he's slow molasis in winter...he'll never live up to the hype that was built around him...and he wasn't even built up to be much...
August 10, 2008 9:30 PM ET | Delete
Players made of glass don't get better with age. I think its just a matter of time till he goes down to another major injury. Trade him if you can get a worthy pick or prospect or player otherwise keep him and hope for the best. I definately wouldn't sign him long-term to a big contract even if he betters last year's numbers. 1 Year deal, only way to go with this guy.
August 11, 2008 9:38 AM ET | Delete
He's far too slow to be an effective scorer in the league but he's a decent secondary option if he stays healthy. There is no point for him to be in Toronto. He will never develop into the player they hoped he was when they drafted him. Trade him and move on.
August 11, 2008 3:08 PM ET | Delete
he has been a selfish player with a glass body since he's been in the league. When he's healthy he can be a top player but it's the old if and when he's healthy
August 11, 2008 3:09 PM ET | Delete
tough...i think the league should be set up with short term deals...i hate the long term deals...too much security given to a player...and i have a few of them on the team i root for...UGH
August 11, 2008 4:46 PM ET | Delete
Unfortunately, I think what Nik gave us last year is the best he has and that was brough about by playing with a top line centre..........I see 50 points and apprx 20 goals..........But if he can do that while staying healthy and continuing to play tough then I believe he is a definite asset at the dealine at which point we can get some over anxious GM to possibly give up a first rounder for him.......Possibly! More likely less than that being as he is headed toward free agency.
August 12, 2008 3:13 AM ET | Delete
we'll have to see. stats-wise he had a career year but it wasn't the stats that impressed me. it was his composure with the puck. it was making that move in the neutral zone to gain entry to the offensive end. he had so much confidence with the puck, i think he was a different player than all his previous years. he played with more passion than before and i actually grew to like him as a player after hating along with most leafs fans since he first laced up his skates for the blue and white. this year [likely] without sundin will be the true test of his worth.
August 12, 2008 8:56 AM ET | Delete
He'll be our ticket to the number one pick if he is placed in a position to lead the team, I highly doubt that big Nik can do it all without Mats carrying most of the load for him. I like Nik, but I don't think he can live up to the expectations and see him going down before Xmas.....I don't want the Leafs to tank, like any fan i want to see them be successful, but good god I really want the number one pick, and I'm set that if Nik is our go to guy, we will get that pick.
August 12, 2008 11:17 AM ET | Delete
There has been no offical report that the Rangers have tried to move on Nik,but I've written it in the past. They should look into bringing him in. They still need size on the wing and over the next few years are going to get really really Eastern European . Plus If he played with Drury or Gomer he may actually provide them with some space and after a cycle wind back into the crease with his frame. How about Dawes for Nik?
August 13, 2008 3:58 PM ET | Delete
I really like Nik guys... He's down to earth (likes fishing), plays a N.A. style of hockey, and, I believe, has latent leadership qualities - during a Maple Leafs internal survey a few years back he was voted the guy players would "most like to have on their line". Yeah, he's not quick, but once he gets going he's a horse. Try handling him behind the net. He has learned to play like Mats in some regards, with his back to the defender, he's one of the stronger players in the NHL. And don't forget he has surprisingly good hands for a man his size.It would take a VERY good player/prospect in return for me to trade him. The only real knock against him is that he has been very injury prone. Would you get a fair return? Not sure, but he did play 72 games last year, scored 26 Goals, and is only 28 years old!
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