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Russian star makes NHL debut with Maple Leafs

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Russian winger Alexander Barabanov, left, signed a one-year NHL contract on Tuesday with the Toronto Maple Leafs. AFP

Russian star makes NHL debut with Maple Leafs

Hockey star Alexander Barabanov, who helped the Russian squad capture the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, signed a one-year NHL contract on Tuesday with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old right winger scored 11 goals in 43 games this season for his hometown club, SKA St Petersburg, in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Over seven campaigns with the club, Barabanov scored 62 goals and set up 75 more and helped SKA St Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup championship in 2015 and 2017.

During the Olympics he netted a goal and assisted on another to help Russia win a gold medal.

“Great playmaking ability, very good in tight,” Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said last month.

“One of the other things we like about him is his ability to make plays under pressure, his ability to win pucks, protect pucks when people come after him and use his strength.”

When the 2019-20 NHL season was shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Maple Leafs were in an Eastern Conference playoff spot with 36 wins and 81 points in 70 games.

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