May 19, 1981 |
Petrolia, ON, CAN
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||186 lb (84 kg; 13 st 4 lb)|
|NHL Draft||165th overall, 1999
Michael "Mike" Leighton (born 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 Carolina Hurricanes.
Leighton 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.
At age 16, 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.
Leighton 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. He 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.
He would continue to play in the Blackhawks' organization until October 4, 2005, when he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange 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 did not tender him a qualifying offer in the off-season and he became an unrestricted free agent. Leighton signed as a free agent with the Anaheim Ducks on July 13, 2006 and the organization assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, following training camp. When both Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sébastien Giguère were injured, the Ducks recalled him on November 27 to start. However, he was claimed off waivers by the Nashville Predators. After appearing in just twenty minutes of one game with the Predators, Leighton was again placed on waivers, and this time was claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers on January 11, 2007.
The Flyers placed him on a ten-game conditioning stint with the Philadelphia Phantoms, but recalled him early as Robert Esche was injured. Leighton backed up Antero Niittymäki 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. After playing four games with the last-place Flyers, Leighton was once again placed on waivers. He was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens on February 27, but he finished the season without playing a game for his new team. Montreal traded him in the off-season to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 7th round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. 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. Leighton 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, Leighton set an AHL record making 98 saves on 101 shots, in a playoff game that went to 5 overtimes, also an AHL record.
Leighton was the Hurricanes' backup goaltender, behind Cam Ward, during the 2008–09 season. He appeared in 19 regular season games but did not play in the playoffs, when the Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. In November 2009, Ward suffered 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. Leighton was then expendable. On December 15, 2009, Leighton was claimed off waivers by the Flyers organization in order to back up Brian Boucher while Ray Emery recovered from injury. On December 21, Boucher suffered an injury, and Leighton found himself in a starting role. On December 26, just 11 days after being waived, Leighton returned to Raleigh as the Flyers defeated Carolina 4–3 in a shootout. Leighton earned the start in goal for the Flyers on January 1 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 Leighton officially supplanted Boucher as the backup. Emery played his final game in February 2010, however, when he was diagnosed with a genetic hip disorder. Leighton 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. Leighton stepped in for his first ever NHL playoff action to continue Boucher's shutout, with the Flyers ultimately winning 4–0. At that point, Leighton 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. Leighton then 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, Leighton 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. Leighton 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. Leighton 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.
Leighton re-signed with the Flyers with a two year deal on June 30, 2010, 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 Leighton would have back surgery. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks. He finally made his 2010–11 debut on December 30, earning the win, but allowing 4 goals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. However, in his absence, rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian 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 Leighton was placed on waivers. Leighton 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. Leighton played in two playoff games.
After spending the entire 2011–12 season with the Phantoms, Leighton re-signed with the Flyers with a one-year contract on July 1, 2012 and was slotted to serve as Ilya Bryzgalov's backup. After playing in just one game for the Flyers during the 2012–13 season, he was traded at the trade deadline to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with a 2015 third-round draft pick for Steve Mason. Leighton served as Sergei Bobrovsky's backup for the remainder of the season, but he did not see any time on the ice for the Blue Jackets. An unrestricted free agent following the season, Leighton signed a one-year contract with HC Donbass of the Kontinental Hockey League on August 19, 2013.
- 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
- Norfolk Admirals franchise record for most career regular season wins: 75
- Norfolk Admirals franchise record for most career regular season shutouts: 18
- First goaltender in Chicago Blackhawks history to record a shutout in his debut
- Most saves in an AHL game: 98
|2007–08||Albany River Rats||AHL||58||28||25||—||4||3451||121||7||2.10||.931|
|2007–08||Albany River Rats||AHL||7||3||4||510||10||2||1.18||.981|
- Hockey’s Book of Firsts, p.19, James Duplacey, JG Press, ISBN 978-1-57215-037-9
- "Hawks Trade Leighton; Acquire Bartovic". Chicago Blackhawks. 2005-10-04. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Qualifying Offers Extended". Buffalo Sabres. 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Ducks Sign Goaltender Michael Leighton". Anaheim Ducks. 2006-07-13. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Preds acquire Leighton on waivers". Nashville Predators. 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Predators place Leighton on waivers". Nashville Predators. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Flyers Claim Goaltender Michael Leighton from Nashville". Philadelphia Flyers. 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Looking Up". Philadelphia Flyers. 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Habs claim goalie Leighton off waivers from Flyers". Montreal Canadiens. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Preston, Ken (2007-06-23). "Hurricanes Acquire Goaltender Michael Leighton". Carolina Hurricanes. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Williams, Terrell (2008-06-11). "Hurricanes Sign Goaltender Michael Leighton". Carolina Hurricanes. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Flyers Claim Goaltender Leighton". Philadelphia Flyers. 2009-12-15. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- McGourty, John (2009-12-31). "Unheralded Leighton Earns Winter Classic Start". NHL.com. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Morreale, Mike (2010-01-04). "Leighton's Arrival Helps Boost Flyers". NHL.com. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Morreale, Mike (2010-05-11). "Leighton Inspires Confidence in Finishing Off Shutout". NHL.com. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Compton, Brian (2010-05-15). "Leighton Personifies Flyers' Rally by Hanging Tough". NHL.com. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- "Flyers, Leighton agree to two-year contract". Philadelphia Flyers. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- "Michael Leighton needs back surgery". ESPN. 2010-10-08.
- Joe Siville (2011-01-03). "Flyers Waive Leighton". philadelphiaflyers.com. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
- Tim Panaccio (2011-01-04). "Leighton clears waivers, heads to the Phantoms". CSNPhilly.com. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
- Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker (2011-04-05). "Flyers recall Leighton; Bobrovsky is playoff starter". CSNPhilly.com. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- Tim Panaccio (2011-04-06). "Leighton clears waivers, will join Flyers Thursday". CSNPhilly.com. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- "Flyers re-sign (G) Michael Leighton". philadelphiaflyers.com. 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2012-07-02.
- "Flyers acquire Steve Mason from Columbus; Adam Hall from Tampa Bay". Philadelphia Flyers. April 3, 2013. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
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