Casey Bailey To Make NHL Debut Tonight With Toronto Maple Leafs
After signing a two-year entry level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last weekend, Casey Bailey will become the first Penn State player to reach the NHL when he takes the ice for the Maple Leafs tonight against the Florida Panthers.
Skating in team practice for the first time on Wednesday wearing No. 37, Bailey confirmed he’ll play tonight to Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Rob Wong.
Casey Bailey confirms he’ll play tonight. He’ll be on the right wing with Joakim Lindstrom and Sam Carrick.
— Rob Wong (@WongSN590) March 26, 2015
After a record-setting season that saw Bailey score 22 goals in 37 games, tied for seventh in the country, the Alaska native set his sights on joining the NHL. According to multiple reports, Bailey had as many as 15 offers on the table from NHL clubs on Saturday before deciding to sign with Toronto, a club enduring a horrific season, sitting 27th overall in the league. To convince the rising star to join the team, all it took was a simple phone call.
According to the Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, during negotiations between Bailey’s agent, Jeff Helperl, and Leafs assistant to the general manager Brandon Pridham, it was suggested by Pridham that Leafs president Brendan Shanahan give Bailey a call. A 30-minute conversation on Saturday morning with the NHL Hall of Famer was all it took to convince Bailey to come to Toronto.
“He has a vision to develop his players and turn this place around,” Bailey said of Shanahan. “He told me the things he liked about my game and they were the same things I liked about my game. I really think he is going to give me the chance to develop and get better here.
“He sees me as a guy who can shoot the puck. I like to get to the net. I am still working on a lot of parts of my game. I am not an NHL all-star by any means. I think I want to hone my game and get better while I am up here.”
Due to a rule that allows only players recalled from the American Hockey League following the NHL trade deadline to be loaned back to the AHL, Bailey is ineligible to play for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, this season. According to Koshan, the plan is for Bailey to live in Toronto this summer and work closely with skating instructor Barb Underhill.
Though Bailey is undoubtedly experiencing some first-game jitters, he told Koshan his first practice allowed him to settle his nerves. When he takes the ice on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre , he’ll almost certainly be thinking about his humble beginnings, helping a fledgling program gain national prominence.
“To go from such a new program to such a solidified Original Six team, it’s an honor to be able to put this on my chest,” Bailey said of the Leafs logo.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight, but won’t be shown on TV in the State College/Pennsylvania market. Be sure to follow @OnwardStSports on Twitter for updates on Bailey’s debut throughout the game. Good luck, Casey. We’re rooting for ya.