The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t see Zach Hyman’s absence coming. The sturdy winger never lodged any complaints after he was slew footed into the boards on Tuesday in New Jersey, and Toronto fully expected he’d play again on Thursday against the Florida Panthers. But on that day, Hyman was clearly not at full health, and instead of playing, Hyman had an MRI that revealed an ankle sprain. He’ll be out a minimum of three weeks for the Leafs.
“He’s a key member of our group, on our line as well [with Mitch Marner],” said John Tavares after the Leafs’ morning skate on Saturday, ahead of that night's game against the New York Rangers. “Just his consistency, his work ethic; a lot of little things he does very well. That doesn’t always make it onto the score sheet, but he does so many good things.”
Hyman, who has seven goals and eight assists in 32 games this season, doesn’t just make his mark at even-strength. He’s one of the Leafs’ premier penalty killers, averaging the most minutes per game among forwards shorthanded (2:15). The penalty kill has been struggling more of late as it is, going 2-for-3 on its most recent outing without Hyman on Thursday. But Marner, a fellow penalty killer, says guys are prepared to step up and take on more responsibility.