Inside the Numbers: Nik Antropov

Leafs media and fans always seem to find (at least) one whipping boy to single out and lay blame for the Leafs not winning the Stanley Cup. More often than not it is a defenseman (Todd Gill, Larry Murphy, Aki Berg to name a few) but the forwards sometimes get singled out as well. A favourite whipping boy of the past few years has been Nik Antropov. Nik Antropov was a surprise pick with the Leafs first round (10th overall) pick in the 1998 entry draft. Many people had hardly heard of the big kid from Kazakhstan let lone thought he’d be a first round pick. He has now played 6 injury riddled seasons in the NHL so lets take a look and see if he is a well deserved whipping boy or not.

Antropov broke into the Leafs lineup in 1999-2000 scoring 12 goals and 30 points in 66 games which was a more than respectable rookie campaign for a young player new to the NHL and new to North America. In 2000-01 his production dropped off a bit playin 52 games and 6 goals and 17 points before a season ending knee injury. The following year was an almost complete washout as he played just 11 games and getting 1 goal and 2 points. In 2002-03 he had his best year playin 72 games scoring 16 goals and 45 points. In 2003-04 he played 62 games scorign 13 goals and 31 points and last year he had almost identical numbers, 12 goals and 31 points, in 57 games.

Clearly from his production so far he hasn’t really lived up to the expectations one might have from a 10th overall pick but has his he been a complete flop? No. In fact despite a lot of serious injuries, including 3 knee operations, he has been a more than respectable player. Antropov gets criticised for being slow and poor defensively and although he isn’t swift afoot he certainly isn’t a poor defensive player. In 2005-06 he was a more than competent penalty killer and finished the year second on the team in +/- at +13. In 2003-04 he finished the year +7 and was tied for 3rd on the team in +/- in the playoffs. In 2002-03 he was a +11 which was good for third on the team. Over his career he is a +49 in 320 games and the only year he wasn’t a ‘plus’ player was when he played just 11 games and was a -1.

A comparable player to Antropov might be fellow 1998 first round draft pick Mark Bell. Bell was drafted 2 spots ahead of Antropov by the Chicago Blackhawks and like Antropov has good size and can play a solid defensive game. Bell’s NHL numbers so far are 151 points in 339 games. Antropov: 156 points in 320 games. Bell is a bit more of a goal scorer but Antropov is more versatile being able to play center or either wing.

There are rumours going around that the Leafs are looking to trade Antropov. As a Leaf fan I would be quite dissapointed to see this happen as I feel a solid defensive player who can kill penalties and who can score you 30-40 points and makes just $1 million is a bargain in this new salary cap era and a line of Peca, Antropov and Ponikarovsky could be the best checking line in the NHL.

This article has 25 Comments

  1. I very much agree with you on this one. Antropov takes a lot of flak and I can’t understand why. He’s certainly a player with big P potential who has so far only shown little s success, but that’s true of many players drafted early (a related Leaf draft story might be Luke Richardson drafted a few spots ahead of Joe Sakic – does anyone know or care who the 12 players picked ahead of Sakic are?)

    The only major knock on the big guy’s record are his injuries. He’s had more major knee surgeries than he has knees and just can’t get through a season without getting hurt. Everytime he starts to get a rythmn going, starts using his size and throwing his weight around, he gets hurt and misses a few weeks. Tough to really be successful when that happens.

    I doubt the Leafs will trade him because he’d be a risky pick up for most teams. If Antropov can stay healthy he could easily have a breakout year and turn into a solid power forward. So the asking price for him will be higher than a low draft pick or depth player. But who wants to give up a solid NHL’er or exciting prospect for someone who’s never played more than 72 games and averages more like 40?

  2. Are you kidding me? Do you ever happen to watch Leafs games? Lets get something striaght here. Antropov does suck, he’s been a Leafs liability since 1998, no questions asked. What Quinn saw in this bag of pucks is beyond me. He’s slow on the ice, terrible passing, terrible shooting (i cant even count how many open net shots he’s missed thru the years), he gets stupid uncalled for penalities game in and game out, and he’s constintly injured. And this is a bargin for a million dollars David? Antropov should have been traded years ago, but for some reason Quinn was loyal to this guy. He may be big , but that doest counter balance all the negative aspects of his game. You have to remember that Quinn liked to put Antropov on Sundin’s line often so dont let the amount of points and +/- fool you. They are bogus stats when it concerns Antropov. With Paul Maurice in town now, im almost certain Antropov’s slack ass play will not be tolerated; i wouldn’t be suprised at all if Toronto can find a team to unload him to (easier said than done). NHL teams dont want him because they know he sucks, its not a secret. I like reading most of your blogs David, but I think your way off base on this one really. Antropov misses so many important and easy oppourtunities in games it stopped being funny years ago. This guy will never be better than he is right now, and he will never be a productive asset to the Leafs organization. He’s been my personal whipping boy and Toronto whipping boy for years for good reason…Antro-Slov sucks!!!!

  3. The problem with this article is that it only looks at numbers, but you can’t analyze a hockey player like that. I am in no way a Leafs fan, but I live in the GTA and thus watch a lot of Leafs games. Mr. Hockey already made some good observations above. Antropov is slow, has TERRIBLE hands, is lazy and plays with no hustle, and takes a lot of dumb penalties. The numbers don’t show everything.

    Perhaps the biggest sign that Antropov won’t amount to much more is the fact that Ponikarovsky – who was in the same underachieving category as Antropov prior to last season – showed much improvement after the lockout with the new rules and styles of play. Antropov on the other hand just resumed his usual bumbling, lackadaisical, talent-less play.

    I know I already said numbers don’t show everything, but here’s one stat that you conveniently left out: Antropov has 317 PIM in 320 regular season GP, and 34 PIM in 28 playoff GP. That’s not jaw-droppingly bad, but when you’re averaging one minor penalty every other game and not putting up the numbers to make up for them, then you shouldn’t be getting any more ice time.

    Bottom line: Antropov is NOT worth the million dollars he’s getting from the Leafs.

  4. This page is not the only time I’ve seen stats portrayed showing Antropov really does not deserve the flack he gets. Antropov last year had the best even strength goals for and against per ice time on the Leafs. Yes, he did play a good chunk of the year with Sundin, but he also played significant stretches on a line with Allison (tied for worst +/- on the team).

    I will agree with Mr. Hockey on a few points, however. Antropov needs to learn to play with an edge, use his size to dominate, but do it without taking dumb penalties. He also needs to put together a season without major injury and get some confidence.

    There’s a reason Antropov played so frequently on the penalty kill last year. Contrary to what some people believe, he works hard, is defensively noth conscious and smart, and has enough offensive upside to count. The Leafs don’t need every player, even a top ten draft pick, to score 40 goals.

  5. I watch Leaf games all the time and yes, I agree that Antropov has his deficiencies but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a useful player. Yeah, he might not have the best ‘hands’ but I never claimed he was an offensive star. I claimed he was a good defensive player who can score you 15 goals and 40 points and that ain’t too bad.

    Yeah, I also agree that if Antropov played with a bit more of an edge he’d be better but again, that doesn’t mean he is a bad player. Besides, I know a lot of players I wished played with a bit more of an edge (see Ponikarovsky). But since Antropov isn’t the fastest guy around he really has to be careful not to get out of position for that extra hit.

    I think some fans think he should be a 30 goal scorer who hits and bangs and skates like the wind. No, he is not that player and never will be. But just because he isn’t, doesn’t make him useless. If everyone just took him for what he is and not what everyone thinks he should be then I think people will learn to appreciate what he does do, and not hate him because of what he doesn’t do.

    JFJ said ‘In Toronto sometimes being good is not good enough’ when discussing the criticism that Antropov gets and I agree with that assessment wholeheartedly.

  6. Dont get me wrong. I have nothing personal against Antropov but I cant forget the 7 years he’s played in Toronto where he’s disappointed me and many other fans game in and game out. Its hard to forget things like that. I mean I seriously can’t remember how many times Antropov’s been open in front of the net and Sundin made a gorgeous pass and Antropov has WHIFFED! its happened sooooo many times. All im saying is i really dont think Antropov is NHL caliber. He’s had 7 years to prove himself on this team and he hasnt doen so, and i dont think he will. In my opinion Antropov’s time in Toronto is done, time to move on. On a good note I have heard many times that Antropov’s work ethic in practice is really good and positive so many thats one thing the Leafs staff see in him and allow him to play every night. Ive also heard JS Aubin has very bad work ethic in practice which might land him back in the AHL start of the season. Anyways, as Ive said before that rumours flying around Toronto last few weeks are Toronto sending Antropov to Detroit for a 3rd round pick which clears up cap room for Toronto to possibly sign Anson Carter, and even JP Dumont’s name has been thrown into the mix. Id rather pay Carter, and Dumont 2 million plus a year than give Antropov 1 million for his services anyday.

  7. So maybe you should blame Pat Quinn for putting Antropov in a situation (on Sundin’s wing) he is not best suited for. If you think of him as a top offensive player I understand that you will be dissapointed because that is not the type of player he has been.

    You can say you don’t think Antropov is NHL caliber but the statistics show otherwise. The statistics show he is a good defensive player and the statistics show that he can even contribute some goals and points here and there.

  8. Nice work David.

    Antro is NHL-calibre alright. Maybe not first line winger-calibre, but to give him away for a 3rd rounder is fool hardy.

  9. I disagree. Im actually reading right now that the Antropov rumor is heating up and the Leafs are looking to dump him. I agree with that completely. Get what you can for the liability he’s been for 6 years. Stats dont tell the whole story. Last season during the Leafs late season run, Antropov played 10/12 of those final games where the Leafs got points. In those 10 games Antropov played on Sundins wing majority of the time. Nik got 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points and was a +8. Same winger Sundin in all 12 final games had 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points and a +11.

  10. I’m going to have to agree with David on this one. Nik Antropov for 1MM is a bargin. The worst thing J.F. could do to himself is trade him for a draft pick and have another “Jason Smith” happen to us. 1MM isn’t breaking the bank and he has always been a solid 3rd line player. I like the checking line combo that he has suggested of Poni-Peca-Antropov. Let Wellwood and Sundin play with some scorers and have some pluggers/young guys playing on the fourth lines. Antropov has some soft hands and some playmaking ability. He doesn’t have a good shot or and goalscoring nack too him at all though. He needs to go into the corners hard this year and feed the puck to Poni – He’s the one with the shot/hands. Peca will provide that line with some speed and leadership – somewhat like Newi did when he was here.

  11. Antropov a bargin at 1million? what planet is this on? Maybe Antropov is a bargin for a million in the Elite League or in the Russian league but def. not the NHL. 1 million dollars for a 7 year vet with no hands, cant skate, cant produce without a superstar on his wing, takes dumb penalties, and almost never plays more than half a season except once. Ya…sounds like a real bargin to me! (sarcasim). The Leafs should def. ship Antropov off to whomever will take him. The Leafs need not worry, Antropov wont turn into a Steve Sullivan. Jason Smith, Fred Modin or any other Leaf player traded away who became good. Antropov’s had 6 full season with the Leafs and this stats and playing on the ice speak for itself. He’s proved year in and year out that Quinn didnt know what the hell he was doing taking his guy 10th overall in the 98′ Draft. Ship him off and let a young and upcoming player take his roster spot. Many young Leaf players deserve the spot more than Antropov…Pohl, Williams, and Ondrus just to name a few.

  12. Mr. Hockey, you fail to provide any reasonable argument to back up your claim that Antropov is not a viable NHLer and not worthy of his $1 million salary.

    You constantly talk about having ‘no hands’ or ‘cannot or ‘taked dumb penalties’ etc. but (a) I don’t completely agree with that assessment nor do I agree that even if those are true that they make him an ineffective player and (b) I could give you a few dozen players who have those attributes that make more than $1 million. Chris Simon makes $1 million. Jeremy Roenick makes $1.2 million. Mark Bell makes over $2.1 million. David Legwand makes almost $1.9 million. Manny Malholtra makes $1.2 million. Scott Thornton makes $1.5 million. Are these guys dramatically better than Antropov? Not really.

    Interesting you mentioned Pohl because he is older than Antropov and has only played 8 games in the NHL. He’s a fringe/depth player at best. Interesting you mentioned Ben Ondrus as well because he played 22 games with the Leafs, scored zero goals, zero points, and was a -10. Considering he played most of his games at the end of the season when the Leafs were winning, that is horrible.

  13. Well in terms of me providing evidence as you speak of that would mean id have to sit here for a good hour or 2 and research all i can on Antropov and im not about to do that. All the proof i need is the last 6 years that Antropov has played with the Leafs. I watch every game that is on TV whether it be CBC, TSN, Rogers or even LeafsTv. What my 2 eyes have seen in those 6 years concerning Antropov is disgusting and i will not soon forget. Its hard to be light on this player cause I really feel he is bringing the Leafs down every game. Thus, this is only MY opinion. People can feel differently and thats fine.

  14. Also.. Pohl had 36 goals, 39 assists for 75 points in 60 AHL games last season for the Baby Leafs under Paul Maurice. Pohl is an up and coming player who just needs to fill a roster spot once cleared…exit Antropov. I will put money on this that if Pohl and Antropov both play this season under Maurice , Pohl overall stats will be dramatically better than Antropov’s. I am aware of Ondrus’ stats from last year which is one reason i didnt post them. Ondrus is a role player kinda of a young Tie Domi. That is his role. Point scorer he will never be. Leafs def. need a tough guy to push players around and a player who stays healtly and plays with fire and intensity in his heart…enter Ondrus. Antropov and Ondrus are 2 diff. players with 2 diff. play styles…all i meant was Ondrus deserves a roster spot over Antropov in my book anyday.

  15. Ben Ondrus hasn’t done squat to derserve a spot on the roster over anyone let alone over Antropov. All he deserves is a chance to earn a spot by proving he is capable of contributing to the team. Pohl had a good year in the AHL last year and so he too deserves to be given a chance to earn a spot with the Leafs but he to doesn’t yet deserve that spot. There are probably 2 spots open for Pohl, Ondrus, Williams, Suglobov, Westrum and whoever else to fight over but none of them yet have shown that they deserve that spot. They all still have to earn it.

  16. Obviously players have to earn a spot on the roster., thats a no brainer. And to say Ondrus hasnt done squat is not fair. Just because he didnt register a point doesnt mean anything, stats arent everything David. Id rather have a young, fast, upbeat, motivated player like Ondrus on my team who plays more like a young Tie Domi than have useless Antropov on the squad. The Leafs signed Antropov to a 1million/season deal and a $90,000/season deal in the AHL. Obviously the Leafs dont have faith in him to play out a full season, as he never does. The 2 way contract is a way for the Leafs to protect themselves under the cap and its lurring to other teams to want to trade for Antropov. Antropov’s slow, has no game, constistanly injured, and plays with no motivation. Ive seen it for the past 6 seasons and your not going to tell me otherwise. The way the Leafs played down the stretch last season with all these young guys was great. I havent seen the leafs that upbeat in ages…thats what they need more of…not Antropov thats for sure. The 2 way contract Antropov was signed to is proof that me and other fans are not the only ones who have no faith in this bag of pucks we call Antropov. For a million dollars a season Antropov is definetly not a bargin… for $90,000…he’s a steal.

  17. Actually, Antropov’s contract is a one-way contract. He’d have to go through waivers, and would certainly get claimed, if the Leafs tried to send him to the AHL.

    As for Ondrus, he’d be lucky to have a quarter the career that Domi had. A good comparision for the optimal upside of Ondrus is former Leaf prospect Adam Mair. Now Mair isn’t a bad 4th line player but the Adam Mair’s of this world are a dime a dozen. He’s a fringe player. He’d contribute little more than Clarke Wilm. In fact probably less because Wilm was actually a decent defensive player and so far Ondrus hasn’t shown himself to be.

  18. That was an error on my part. I know the Leafs offered Antropov a 2 way contract but obviously the deal was done one way. Which is better overall anyways, never good to lose a player in a waiver. I still dont feel Antropov is an asset to this club, i dont expect a big year from him as I do from Ponikorovski and Wellwood. Early prediction says if Antropov is a Leaf for the full season he’ll play somewhere in the ball park of about 50 games and will produce about 35 points. My ultimate hope is that he does get traded in the very near future hopefully before the regular season begins. Antropov is the wisest move for the Leafs to drop in order to clear up cap room if they need to. Young players are all unproven and way too early to start trading potential break out players or future stars. Antropov has been underachieving for 6 seasons in Toronto, maybe a change of scenery is just what he needs.

  19. Clarke Wilm is a good defensive player and im actually sad to see him leave the Leafs roster. Personally i like the play style of Ben Ondrus. In this new NHL where its all about speed and transition, Ondrus brings to the clubhouse much needed heart and tougness. Yes,it is too early to compare Ondrus to Domi or even Tucker but he has that similar play style to these players which I love and is missing in the NHL today on many clubs. Ondrus certainly wont produce any 30-40 point seasons anytime soon, but he can defenetly be molded into a good power foward who primary plays on the 4th line. The Leafs have him locked in for 2 seasons, mostly due to Paul Maurice. Maybe Maurice knows something we dont. Ondrus is just one of the many young great players the Leafs organization has produced in the past 2 seasons. Too many players to talk about actually. We could be here all day 😀

  20. Antropov may not be the greatest player in the league without question. He is however a good player to have on any NHL team for one million per season. He is gritty in the corners, can keep the puck in the zone well, and looked to play extremely well done the stretch last year. Whether or not Antropov will be paired up with Sundin, he should produce some good numbers this season and his defensive skills is always an asset.

  21. Ironic that you should compare him w/ Bell.
    The Leafs traded down in that draft, and picked Antropov. They origianlly held the pick used by Chicago to draft Mark Bell.

  22. I know this is an old post but I still think it needs to be said that Nik Antropov was drafted in the old era NHL where a premium was placed on size. For a 6’6″ 230 lb man he actually has GOOD hands. He is a very good stick handler, he makes clean crisp passes, but he lacks finish. Which isn’t to say he’ll never score goals, but he is unlikely to ever put in more than 25. As for his “constant” injuries, the guy has averaged 53 games a season over 6 years, INCLUDING a year he only played 11 games. Considering the fact that he’s blown out both knees, AND had serious shoulder surgery over that span I would consider that an indication of dedication and toughness, NOT lackadaisical effort. I’d be curious how many players in the NHL have played 320 games in 6 years while having to deal with the huge variety of injuries Antropov has had. Mark Bell had played 336 going into this year and has never scored more than 25 in a season. The thing is his shot and goal totals have gone up every year he’s played. His shooting percentage has never been above 11%, and yet because he gets 1st line minutes and takes more shots he scores more goals. Antropov’s shooting percentage is at 12% for his career and in the years he played more than 60 games it was over 13%, climbing to 15% in his best season. That doesn’t sound to me like a player with bad hands. He was playing 2 minutes less per game than Bell, and got far less power play time. He’s a DEFENSIVE forward. In all of this Mr. Hockey keeps mentioning players he obviously likes like Tie Domi. Domi shot for 7% last season and was a -10. Obviously he has WORSE hands than Antropov, and he was horrible defensively. Why replace a player that’s scoring on 12% of his shots with a player that’s scoring on 7%, when he also takes more penalties, is incapable of killing them effectively? All because you prefer his quickness and penchance for rough play. Frankly your points seem a tad typical of most Leafs fans. Which is to say founded on general perception rather than actually watching what goes on on the ice. I too watch every leafs game, and I seem to remember a time when Sundin, Mogilny, and Antropov were a rather dominant offensive combination. The fact that he participated on a line with the two top offensive producers the Leafs have had in recent memory. VERY EFFECTIVELY mind you, and to the liking of both his team-mates, you perhaps should rethink the common conception of solid player. You’re probably one of the majority that think Bryan McCabe is an excellent defenceman but hate Tomas Kaberle for not “shooting the puck”. This even though Kaberle is obviously the quarterback of the power play, consistently deals with opposition pressure better, and rarely makes bad passes. McCabe frequently makes giveaways, seems to have no clue positionally, and regularly forgets his responsibilities in his own end. Antropov is one of the better Defensive forwards on the Leafs and frankly deserves far less criticism. Try bashing someone that actually warrants it… i.e. Domi.

  23. If Antropov was not a surprise pick in the first round he would not get nearly as much slack as he takes now. Expectations were and are too great for him and he will never live up to them. Like someone said earlier, his max production will be 15-20goals 40-50 points, with solid d in there as well. He is a better option right now then anyone else the leafs have.
    Ondrus was alright last year, he provided a good spark but for someone with no offense, no defence, no speed, he doesn’t hit hard enough or put the fear of god into opponents enough to warrent a permanent place on the 4th line.

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