Brandon Kozun, who made ripples in Toronto at the beginning of last season by making the team out of training camp, has left the organization to sign with Finnish-based KHL club Jokerit, the team announced on Thursday.
Kozun, 25, earned an opening-night roster spot following a good exhibition campaign but suffered a serious blow shortly thereafter, suffering a high ankle sprain in mid-October. He was placed on waivers not long after returning and, after going unclaimed, proceeded to split time between the Leafs and AHL Marlies for the remainder of the year.
A former sniper with WHL Calgary, Kozun’s lack of size — he goes 5-foot-8, 167 pounds — has always worked against him, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares with Jokerit, which has been a desirable landing spot for undersized players.
Steve Moses, the diminutive forward that set a league scoring record (36 goals) for Jokerit last season, recently scored a one-year, $1 million deal from Nashville.
Report: Anonymous Leafs player says ‘It’s pretty screwed up in here’
Mercifully, the Toronto Maple Leafs season is almost over.
The latest in this 82-game soap opera was dropped Friday, when Leafs coach Peter Horachek and winger Phil Kessel had conflicting opinions on the work ethic being put forward as this team continues to limp toward the end of a tumultuous 2014-15 campaign.
“It’s pretty screwed up in here,” said the player, who requested that his name not be used.
When asked what he meant by his comment, the player laughed and then referenced Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. It was a game in which goaltender Jonathan Bernier compared the Leafs to a “junior team” and head coach Peter Horachek criticized the top players for going through the motions.
But the “screwed up” part was not that Kessel, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul had seemingly taken the night off. It was that the fringe players who actually did show up — Sam Carrick, Richard Panik, Brandon Kozun and Zach Sill — were not rewarded with more ice time for their efforts.
There was no miracle comeback for the Calgary Flames.
It wasn’t necessary. They were facing a beleaguered Toronto Maple Leafs team that continues to descend in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Flames jumped back into second in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and two better than the L.A. Kings, after smoking the Leafs by a final score of 6-3 on Friday. Calgary built up a lead thanks to a four-goal first-period and cruised from there.
And in the absence of their captain and best defenseman Mark Giordano, the Flames are 5-0-1. They continue to win, even as pundits predicted they would, at some point this season, falter, and it’s turned them into one of the surprise playoff-contending stories, with the post-season quickly approaching.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will have Joffrey Lupul back in the lineup tonight when they play host to the Winnipeg Jets.
The forward has missed four games due to a lower body injury.
As for who comes out of the lineup, coach Peter Horachek says it’s a tough decision.
“Most likely it’ll be (Brandon) Kozun. I liked the way he’s played,” said Horachek. “I like what he’s brought. He had some really good energy. Kind of makes you feel bad about the situation, but he’s a young player that’s got a lot of time coming forward. That’s the most likely choice.”
Kozun scored his first career NHL goal in the Leafs’ 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night. Kozun has two points in eight games with the Leafs this season while averaging under eight minutes in ice times.
Injuries have limited Lupul to 32 games where he has nine goals and 10 assists.
Tonight marks the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season. The Jets beat the Leafs 5-1 on Jan. 3. It was Randy Carlyle’s final game behind Toronto’s bench.
Since then the Leafs have gone 2-15-2 including five straight (0-4-1) without a win.