Josh Leivo is fitting in nicely in Vancouver.
Acquired by the Canucks in early-December from Toronto in exchange for Michael Carcone, the 25-year-old forward has played a vital role in helping the Canucks maintain position in the playoff race.
Leivo has racked up seven goals, 12 points and a plus-5 rating in 28 contests with his new team. Prior to 2018-19, the Canadian forward had never played more than 16 games in an NHL season.
Once considered a depth forward on the Maple Leafs, Leivo could be seen as the odd-man out after William Nylander ended his holdout with the team and signed a six-year contract extension. It was pretty clear with all the young offensive talent in Toronto that the 6' 2" winger was never going to get a real opportunity with the Maple Leafs.
The Canucks saw something in Leivo that many fans are seeing now. A hard-worker with untapped potential. Leivo was sitting on just four goals through 27 games for the Maple Leafs entering December. The Canucks made the move on Dec. 3 and haven't looked back since.
Leivo is already having a career year in Vancouver and is earning the confidence of head coach Travis Green. The versatile winger skated a career-high 21:03 in Saturday's loss to the San Jose Sharks and is getting plenty of offensive opportunities playing alongside young talented players such as Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson.
Leivo's career in Vancouver got off to the perfect start he scored a goal on his very first shot against the Minnesota Wild in his debut. With the game scoreless in the opening period, the newcomer took a pass from Pettersson in the high slot and quickly ripped a shot over the glove of netminder Devan Dubnyk. Leivo's lethal goal-scoring ability is on full display in this sequence. He recognizes he needs to get the shot off quickly and uses great precision to place it into the top corner.
Leivo scored four goals in his first nine games with the Canucks and has become a solid supporting scorer on a team vying for a playoff spot.
The 25-year-old has certainly benefited from a change of scenery in Vancouver. Drafted 86th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2011 NHL Draft, Leivo never got much of a shot with the Maple Leafs. He was one of the top scorers for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL in his third professional season, but was on the outside looking in on a very talented NHL roster.
Since the trade, only Boeser, and Bo Horvat have scored more goals than Leivo. His 59 shots through 28 games indicate more goals may be on the way.
It's no coincidence the Canucks have improved since the Leivo acquisition. After an eight-game losing skid in November, the Canucks went 13-7-3 in the next two months following the trade.
Leivo's versatility has aided the team in numerous different aspects on the ice. His size, strength, speed and skill make him a well-rounded middle-six forward who has the potential to play a significant role in Vancouver's future.
Loui Eriksson's game-winning goal against the Sabres in January highlights numerous qualities that made Leivo sought after by GM Jim Benning and management. With the contest tied 3-3 in the 3rd period and the Canucks controlling play in the offensive zone, Leivo demonstrated great awareness and speed to track and receive a pass from Jay Beagle behind the net. After reading the play and collecting the puck, Leivo utilizes his frame to shift to the backhand, shield off blueliner Zach Bogosian, evade the goaltender poke check and set up Eriksson for a cross-crease goal.
Video: BUF@VAN: Eriksson finishes Leivo's feed, breaks tie
Leivo has also demonstrated the willingness to stick up for his teammates. In a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center, the newcomer protected the youngster Pettersson with a fight against ex-Canuck Ryan Kesler. After Kesler took exception to a play by Pettersson, Leivo quickly intervened and dropped the gloves with the pesky Ducks' forward to settle the score.
Leivo is averaging 14:26 of ice time with the Canucks - almost four more minutes than what he was seeing in his final year with Toronto. He's locked down a spot on Vancouver's power play and is being trusted in key situations all over the ice.
The Canucks gave a promising 25-year-old forward a chance and are reaping the rewards. Leivo is getting plenty of opportunities to succeed with his new club and is making the most of it. As the Canucks compete for a playoff spot, look for the two-way forward to continue playing an important role.