Ilya Samsonov to make Maple Leafs debut vs. Capitals

Ilya Samsonov to make Maple Leafs debut vs. Capitals originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Ilya Samsonov won’t have to wait long to face his former team.

The 25-year-old goaltender is set to make his Toronto Maple Leafs debut Thursday against the Capitals, head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters Monday including NHL.com’s Dave McCarthy. Matt Murray will be in net for the Leafs’ opener Wednesday.

Washington drafted Samsonov 22nd overall in 2015, making him the highest-selected goalie since the Tampa Bay Lightning took Andrei Vasilevskiy 19th in 2012. He appeared in 89 games over three seasons with a .902 save percentage; Samsonov showed plenty of flashes but struggled with consistency from start to start and, sometimes, even save to save.

The Capitals opted not to make him a qualifying offer last offseason, cutting ties with both him and Vitek Vanecek to clean house at goalie. Instead, they signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million free-agent contract only a few weeks removed from his Stanley Cup Finals run with the Colorado Avalanche.

Washington also brought in veteran backup Charlie Lindgren, who is expected to start opposite Samsonov on Thursday with Kuemper getting the nod Wednesday against the Boston Bruins.

Samsonov has a fresh start with the Maple Leafs, who have had their own issues between the pipes the last few seasons. Though Murray was signed to be the starter, he hasn’t played a full season since 2018-19 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Samsonov will get his chances to live up to the potential the Capitals saw in him.

His first opportunity to do so will come Thursday with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov firing shots against him.

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