The Toronto Maple Leafs lost their second preseason game of the 2021-22 season. However, some very good news emerged from that loss. Playing just under 17 minutes during that game at right wing was Ondrej Kase. Not only that, he scored a pretty goal in close.
It’s a Surprise that Kase Is Even Playing
If truth be told, I never believed that the Maple Leafs Ondrej Kase would even play this season – let alone right off the bat during the preseason. His history with concussions was so dire that I believed the Maple Leafs signed him hoping their world-class player development facilities would work with him so that he could eventually return to the ice.
As I noted above, I never believed that Kase’s eventually would be this soon. That he played is almost more surprising than that he scored. He’s a solid hockey player and, if he can stay healthy, he can become a player for the Maple Leafs. He can and has scored.
What’s Kase’s Story and Why Is He at a Crossroads in His Career?
Let’s go back a few months. Kase was an interesting offseason signing for the Maple Leafs. He’s only 25 years old and he has lots of talent. But Kase has had a history of concussions. Those concussions threatened his NHL hockey career.
Before those concussions began to occur, at the age of 21 during the 2017-18 season, Kase scored 20 goals with the Anaheim Ducks playing on Ryan Getzlaf’s line. For two seasons, Kase looked like one of the premier young wingers in the game by scoring 31 goals and 20 assists (for 58 points) in 96 games during 2017-18 and 2018-19.
After the Boston Bruins brought him to the team at the 2020 trade deadline, he never approached what he had been. As a result of having had five concussions during his last five seasons, his health is precarious. In fact, he was only NOT on the Bruins’ LTIR for three games when he was in Boston.
What Might the Maple Leafs Have in Kase?
If Kase can stay healthy, the Maple Leafs might have actually hit a home run that no one – especially me – anticipated. If he regains his health, he will be a great addition to the team. At a measly $1.25 million, he’s an example of the Maple Leafs finding and signing high-level talent at a bargain price.
That he scored a goal in his first Maple Leafs’ game – albeit preseason – is special. For a young man who’s probably been at the crossroads of his career and who hadn’t scored an NHL goal in two seasons, it’s great news. There was a chance he was never going to play another NHL game.
And he scored tonight.
Maple Fans, Don’t Get Your Hopes Up – Still
Maple Leafs’ fans are probably wise not to get their hopes up that Kase will make the team’s top-six unit. But, if he did …
The Maple Leafs are going to be careful to make sure Kase can avoid another concussion. But, if he’s healthy enough to play, he could become more that a useful forward. He was on his way to becoming a star.
Nick Ritchie Knows Kase Better than Anyone, and He Says
Current teammate Nick Ritchie, who’s played with Kase a long time – both with the Bruins and the Ducks, calls Kase a “great hockey player and even better person [who] obviously suffered some injuries that was tough for him to go through, but just a high-end player with lots of speed and skill and can score.”
Ritchie added, “I think he’s doing a lot better. He’s getting past the point and he’s going to be able to stay healthy for a long period of time here. The Leafs and the fans are going to love him.”
If Ritchie is correct, I have a feeling that the Maple Leafs are going to really appreciate the game that Kase brings to the ice. As Maple Leafs’ fans, we can hope.
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