|Born||May 19, 1981 |
Petrolia, Ontario, Canada
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||186 lb (84 kg; 13 st 4 lb)|
|NHL Draft||165th overall, 1999|
Michael Leighton (born on May 19, 1981) is a professional ice hockey goaltender who currently plays for HC Donbass of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
He previously played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Playing Career[edit | edit source]
Michael grew up playing minor hockey in his hometown of Petrolia, Ontario for the Petrolia Oilers of the OMHA Bluewater League and AAA for the Lambton Lightning of the Alliance League.
When he was 16 years old, he played for the Petrolia Jets Jr.B. team of the OHA's Western Ontario Hockey League before being drafted by the Windsor Spitfires in the 3rd round (56th overall) in the 1998 OHL Priority Selection.
Michael began impressing scouts while playing for the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League.
Following his rookie season, he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the sixth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft with the 165th overall pick.
He played two more seasons in the OHL before signing an entry level contract with the Blackhawks prior to the 2001–02 AHL season.
He played two seasons in the AHL for the Norfolk Admirals before making his NHL debut on January 8, 2003.
Michael became the first Blackhawks player to record a shutout in his debut during a scoreless tie against the Phoenix Coyotes' Zac Bierk.
Bierk also earned his first career shutout, although it was not his NHL debut.
It was the first time that two goalies in the same game both earned their first career shutouts.
He would compete with Craig Anderson for back-up duties and therefore never spent a complete season in the NHL during his time with Chicago.
On October 4, 2005, Michael was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Milan Bartovic.
He did not appear in a game with the Sabres, as he spent the season with their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
Buffalo didn't tender him a qualifying offer in the off-season and he became an unrestricted free agent.
On July 13, 2006, Michael was signed as a free agent by the Anaheim Ducks and he was assigned to the Ducks' AHL affiliate team, the Portland Pirates following training camp.
After appearing in just twenty minutes of one game with the Predators, Michael was again placed on waivers. On January 11, 2007, he was claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers placed him on a ten-game conditioning stint with the Philadelphia Phantoms, but recalled him early as Robert Esche was injured.
Michael backed up Antero Niittymaki for one game before making his first NHL start in nearly three years on February 10, 2007 in a win against the St. Louis Blues.
On February 27, 2007, Michael was claimed on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens, but he finished the season without playing a game for his new team.
Carolina originally assigned him to their AHL affiliate Albany River Rats, but brought him back to the NHL on January 3, 2008 when John Grahame was sent to Albany after being placed on waivers.
He appeared in three games for the Hurricanes, with a record of 1–1–0, before returning to Albany on January 21 as Grahame was recalled to the NHL team.
On April 24, 2008, Michael set an AHL record making 98 saves on 101 shots, in a playoff game that went to 5 overtimes, also an AHL record.
He was the Hurricanes' backup goaltender behind Cam Ward during the 2008–09 season.
Michael appeared in 19 regular season games but did not play in the playoffs, when the Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
In November of 2009, he suffered from a leg injury which caused him to miss more than a month of play.
During that time, the team signed veteran Manny Legace who became the backup when Ward returned. Michael was then expendable.
On December 21, 2009, Boucher suffered from an injury and Michael found himself in a starting role.
On December 26, 2009 (eleven days after being waived), he returned to Raleigh as the Flyers defeated the Hurricanes 4-3 in a shootout.
On January 1, 2010, Michael earned the start in goal for the Flyers at the 2010 Winter Classic.
He performed well on the national stage, but the Flyers ultimately fell to the Boston Bruins 2–1 in overtime.
After the Winter Classic, Emery returned and Michael officially supplanted Boucher as the backup.
In February of 2010, Emery played in his final game when he was diagnosed with a genetic hip disorder.
Michael carried the load with some great success, but his regular season came to an end in Nashville in March, forcing Boucher back into the spotlight.
On May 10, 2010, Boucher was once again injured in a playoff game against the Bruins.
Michael stepped in for his first ever NHL playoff action to continue Boucher's shutout with the Flyers ultimately winning 4–0.
At that point, he hadn't even been dressing as he was still recovering from the injury sustained in Nashville and the Game 5 he relieved Boucher in was his first game dressing since March.
Michael started and won the next two games, helping the Flyers to become only the third team in NHL history (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders) to come back from an 0–3 deficit and win a series.
In the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens, he allowed only seven goals in five games, posting three shutouts as the seventh-seeded Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Michael started all six games of the Final series, though Boucher finished Game One, a 6–5 Blackhawks win, and Game Five, a 7–4 Blackhawks win. Boucher was the losing goalie of record in both games.
He struggled in the finals, posting a goals against average of 3.96 and a save percentage of 0.876 as Chicago defeated Philadelphia four games to two, ending with an overtime goal by Patrick Kane.
On June 30, 2010, Michael re-signed with the Philadelphia Flyers just one day before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent with the intention of making him the Flyers' official starting goaltender after Emery was not retained.
On October 8, 2010, it was reported that he would have back surgery and expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
On December 30, 2010, Michael finally made his 2010-11 debut and earned the win, but he allowed four goals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In his absence, rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and Boucher had played well, creating a rare 3-way goaltending competition in the Flyers crease.
On January 3, 2011, the three-way goalie competition was solved as GM Paul Holmgren reported Michael was placed on waivers.
He cleared waivers the next day and was assigned to the Adirondack Phantoms.
Three months later he was placed on re-entry waivers and after clearing, re-joined the Flyers. Michael played in two playoff games.
On July 1, 2012 (after spending the entire 2011–12 season with the Phantoms), Michael re-signed with the Flyers with a one-year contract and was slotted to serve as Ilya Bryzgalov's backup.
On April 3, 2013 (after playing in just one game for the Flyers during the 2012-13 season), Michael was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets with Philadelphia's third-round choice in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft for Steve Mason.
Michael served as Bobrovsky's backup for the remainder of the season, but he did not see any time on the ice for the Blue Jackets.
On August 19, 2013, he signed a one-year contract with HC Donbass of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
Career Statistics[edit | edit source]
|2007–08||Albany River Rats||AHL||58||28||25||4||3451||121||7||2.10||.931||7||3||4||510||10||2||1.18||.981|
Awards & Achievements[edit | edit source]
- 2000: OHL All-star Team West Goalie
- 2001–02: AHL All-Rookie Team
- 2007–08: Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award
- 2007–08: AHL First All-Star Team
Records[edit | edit source]
- Norfolk Admirals franchise record for most career regular season wins: 75
- Norfolk Admirals franchise record for most career regular season shutouts: 18
- The first goaltender in Chicago Blackhawks history to record a shutout in his debut
- Most saves in an AHL game: 98