Kyle Dubas on Frederik Gauthier, William Nylander and more

"William will player center. I think we’ve made that commitment, and he wants to play there. It’s going to be up to him to show he can do it, but he’s going to start the year playing center. It’s going to be up to him in terms of where he takes it."

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Maple Leafs co-GM and Marlies GM, Kyle Dubas, with a whole bunch of good stuff on Leafs prospects today at Prospect Camp:

On development camp

I think it’s a great opportunity for Sheldon to become familiar with some of the players that are probably, most likely, going to start the season — at the very least — with him with the Marlies, and for them to get an idea of what he’s about. All the stuff on the ice is all game situation stuff; already kind of sculpting the players’ skillsets to the way we want to play as a team with the Leafs and the Marlies. Sheldon and Mike have done a lot of work to get them ready for this and then they pass it onto the player development staff, and it’s all coming together quite nicely on the ice.

Frederik Gauthier

With Frederik, I think he’s the type of guy a lot of people who are big on statistics and analytics would say he hasn’t produced as much as some of these other guys. And that’s true, he hasn’t. Mike uses a phrase that some guys are scout players and some guys are coach players. Every coach wants a player like Frederik on their team. You watch him, his skillset, his skating, his ability to move with the puck a little bit out here on the ice, and it’s come so far. When you talk to Sheldon, when you talk to Mike, he’s one of the players they’re most excited about. I think everybody gets excited about the high end, flashy skilled guys, but with Sheldon and Mike – the people who are standing behind the bench – they get excited about him because he’s a guy you can trust out there in any circumstance. He’s great on faceoffs, he’s a big body, he plays extremely well defensively, he’s got a great stick defensively, able to get his stick on the puck and move it up the ice. He’s going to need to be able to be a little more assertive defensively and break out of our own zone quickly.

He’s a better player in that regard [advanced statistics]. There’s a couple players in this year’s draft that were eligible and then there’s a guy like Frederik, where people who are pure analytics people would say, “he’s not the type of guy you would suggest taking in that spot,” but if you go down to the shot attempts and the possession parts of it, he’s a guy that charts out extremely well. It’s just an interesting kind of paradox with where we’re at with hockey and advanced statistics. Frederik is a guy that’s a prime example, he’s a polarizing player in that regard. It’s interesting because baseball has gone through this already – people that have really strong defensive value – in hockey, how do we measure that? For us, he charts out really well in that regard.

I think this year it’s going to be great for him. He’ll be with the Marlies. Sheldon really likes him. The more he sees him out here on the ice, he likes him even more. For us, we don’t just want to have him pigeonholed as this defensive center, we want him to grow as a player, we want him to expand offensively, we want him to be more assertive defensively – [Rimouski] was great spot for his development that he played so much. You could see it, especially in the Memorial Cup after the end of a long playoff run — especially in the later games in the tournament — you could see him start to try to conserve his energy and be a bit more passive and play a bit more in containment on defence. We’re going to want him to be more assertive, quicker, close on people quicker and get the puck moving up the ice, and I think you’ll see his offensive game expand from there.

William Nylander

William will player center. I think we’ve made that commitment, and as Mike said yesterday, he wants to play there. It’s going to be up to him to show he can do it, but he’s going to start the year – he’s going to come to training camp – and start by playing center. It’s going to be up to him in terms of where he takes it.

I think he had an interesting year because he starts with MoDo, he’s playing center, he’s playing over 20 minutes a game. He comes over to the World Juniors and he has a good World Junior, and then he comes to the Marlies and we shift him over to the wing. His minutes dropped a little bit. He starts to earn the trust of the coaching staff, then later in the year he completely takes off with 15 points in the last 11 games or whatever it was. You see the growth in him there, and you see him here leading the group. Physically, he is a guy that continues to work hard. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see what William does this season.

Martins Dzierkals

We saw him at the u18 tournament. Statistically, you see him there, and he was outstanding in the games that I personally saw. He’s a guy that Thommie Bergman and Garth Malarchuk both really liked a lot on our scouting staff. We all went and watched him in the relegation games and he was really, really good; got video on him. He’s a very fast, skilled player. His family is very big, so it looks like a guy that’s going to grow a little bit, get a lot stronger. Statistically, in Latvia – and it’s not a traditional market to be taking a lot of guys from, they’re developing more and more players – but his production level in the junior league there was off the charts. It just kind of all added together. We knew there were a lot of other teams circling, we had to pick him there. We got those extra picks by moving down and picked him up.

I know Rouyn-Noranda drafted him last week, and we haven’t had a lot of discussion – we’ll have more here – I think it looks like he’s going to play there. For us, with Scott Pellerin being in Boston, it’s easy to get up into the Montreal area, up to see him in Rouyn. It will be a great experience for him. It’s going to be interesting to see how he comes through the summer. He’s got a lot of work to do in terms of strength, but all these guys do – they’re 18 years old. It’s up to us to arm them with the right information to develop that way.

Viktor Loov

I thought he was outstanding [this season]. With Viktor, he’s such a great kid, he works so hard, he’s in great condition, he’s a great skater. [What he needs to work on] it’s to embrace and accept – it’s going to be exciting to watch him work with Gord and Sheldon — it’s to embrace what makes him such a great prospect, which is his mobility, his ability to carry the puck, close gaps. Physically, some hits he had in the rookie tournament — he levelled a few guys. I think over here, you hit somebody — even if it’s a clean hit — you’ve got five guys who want to jump you. So, I think it’s adapting to that. You saw as the year went along with the Marlies, he started getting a little bit more physical. He got suspended in the playoffs on a hit that was as big of a hit as I saw the whole season. Unfortunate the player was injured on the play, but he started to embrace that a little bit. With Viktor, he tries to do everything. It’s just playing within himself, using his feet to close gaps within his space in the ice versus trying to chase everyone around and make the play himself. I think the coaching staff – I know they will be great for him, and it’s going to be exciting to see him come into the Fall and in the exhibition season with the Leafs and so on.

Matt Finn

It was just a tough year for Matt. I just throw it away and say, “okay, he’s got two more years left on his entry level deal, he’s worked his butt off in the summer and even in the spring when the Marlies were still playing.” He came into camp — he didn’t have a great summer — he came into camp, struggled in the rookie tournament, then he tore his hamstring, comes back, claws his way back in, we start him in Orlando then we got playing with the Marlies. Then, he got a concussion, which cost him a lot of time. With any injury like that we want to make sure he’s absolutely 100% ready to go and he’s not at any risk whatsoever. It was just a really tough year for him; he never got it on track. He’s worked extremely hard; he’s in every day pushing himself. It will be exciting to see him. He’s got our full support and a good chance to bounce back this season.

Andrew Nielsen

Andrew played for Lethbridge and I didn’t see him play this year. Both Mark Hunter and Garth Malarchuk were huge fans of him. He’s a tough kid, he’s a big defender, but he’s also got offensive upside as well. Make him stronger and improve his mobility and he’s got a real good chance.

Rinat Valiev

I think it was a great experience for him. Even the games he played in at the end of the regular season, he played at Rockford and at Chicago — our last two games — and he was really, really good. I think he’s going to be a key member of the Marlies this year. He’s a competitive guy with good offensive upside that he showed this year in Kootenay. The Kootenay staff did just a great job with him throughout the season. He played for Russia at the World Juniors. He’s a guy that can play in all situations for us and we’re really excited to see him come in. You can tell he’s worked hard so far in the offseason. He’s staying in North America the rest of the offseason. He’ll be in Toronto early, which will be good. That experience is so valuable for any player to see – I think it was a rude awakening for a lot of our guys. We played Grand Rapids – I said his at the end of our season, we were up 2-0 and lost three in a row to lose it — to see an elite organization like Detroit, how fast and how good their prospects were… I mean we were a really young team, but they weren’t an old team in Grand Rapids, either. That’s where we want to get to. They were just so fast, so well structured and conditioned. It was a good lesson for all of our young players.

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