Chicago has Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta as the number one and number two goaltenders respectively, but Leighton is hoping he can challenge for the second slot at the very least.
“My goal is obviously to play better than [Raanta] and Crawford if I can, and that’s all I can control,” Leighton said. “I’m going to go into camp in good shape and play my best. If it doesn’t work out I’ll work hard in Rockford to get back to it. That’s my goal. I want to play in the NHL. I want to play for the Blackhawks. Hopefully it works out for me, but my focus right now is just playing the best hockey that I can and let the chips fall as they may.”
Leighton was a sixth round draft pick for the Blackhawks in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft and played in 42 games for the team, but perhaps more importantly he was the goalie that Patrick Kane beat when Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
The puck from the Game Six overtime Cup-clincher is still missing and Leighton had to answer for his part in it before he inked with the Blackhawks, but the ribbing likely won’t stop there.
“I’ve heard there’s a lot of controversy about it,” Leighton said. “I don’t know where the puck is. I’ve been asked many times. The last I saw it was under the net. I lifted the net up and kicked it. I know the referee or linesman was beside me and that was it. That was really the last thing on my mind, finding where that puck was.”
He’ll be in on Chicago’s training camp next month and will have his shot at making the team, but recent history hasn’t been kind.
Since Kane scored on him to win it all in 2010, Leighton has only played in two NHL games. His tenure on the Flyers wrapped with a stint in the AHL. He was then traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in April of 2013, where he dressed as the back-up but never saw action. Following that, he inked a deal in the KHL and won 20 games with Donbass Donetsk.
Leighton was expected to play again in the KHL for the upcoming season, but an “undisclosed illness” led to that deal falling through. Now he’s healthy and ready for another shot in the National Hockey League with the Blackhawks.