AHL fans will already know the name Mike Kostka.
Soon NHL fans might, too.
Kostka, a 27-year-old defenseman, is creating a good deal of buzz in hockey’s most buzzing market, Toronto. His 28 points are second on the Marlies and second behind Justin Schultz among all the league’s d-men.
“He has been impressive,” Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke told TSN.ca via e-mail. “High hockey IQ, great patience with the puck, can really thread passes on the power play.”
Kostka’s hockey journey has been a long one. The Marlies are his fifth AHL stop following four seasons at UMass-Amherst. He was never drafted.
Last year, he helped Norfolk win the Calder Cup, after which the Leafs signed him to a one-year deal that’s paying him $250,000 to play in the minors. That’s more than most AHLers earn and evidence of the organization’s deep pockets.
If the NHL has a season, cracking the Leafs’ line-up would be a realistic goal for Kostka.
“He’s a guy firmly on our roster that if the NHL ever gets going again here I would hope that he gets at least a look,” Marlies coach Dallas Eakins said recently. “Let’s get him into a game or two and see what he can do at the NHL level.”
Didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to make his mark at the NHL level.
The No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft scored his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game on Thursday night, cutting Ottawa’s lead to 2-1 in the third period of Buffalo’s season-opener.
Marcus Foligno and another new Sabre, Evander Kane, registered the assists on Eichel’s marker, which came on the power play.
Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.
Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.
During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.
It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.
As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.
Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.