Mike Babcock was interviewed at the intermission of the Canada/Sweden Summer Showcase game, where Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Mitch Marner was in action.
Are you watching Mitch Marner, or are you doing something else?
Mike Babcock: Mitch Marner didn’t play in the first game I came to see Canada. Obviously, I found out when their practice was and I came to watch them. I watched lots of of things he did, but I also was just taking in some drills there. The way they had it set up — maybe it’s something we can take and make better, or fix, or come up with something from. You’re always getting new ideas and the Canadian coaches are good.
Auston Matthews is obviously getting a lot of attention. So is Mitch Marner. What have you thought of his play so far here in the last couple of days?
Babcock: I thought he was magical yesterday in practice. The one powerplay here tonight — he made four plays that could’ve easily been goals. I really like his attention to detail without the puck — how he knocks down pucks, how he knows where the puck is going. The puck always comes to him. To me, he loves the game. His body language shows that. He’s on and he’s excited to play. I think he’s a real good Leaf for a long time to come.
Could he, though, be a Leaf next year, is the question. A lot of people are talking about Mitch Marner having to get bigger and stronger. Do you see him fitting into the roster this upcoming season?
Babcock: I sure think he has a good chance. Mitch has been working with our guys and really training hard. He’s eating right and doing everything he can to get stronger. To say Mitch has got to put on a bunch of weight, to me, is ridiculous. I have a son who has had trouble putting on weight too. They work at it hard. All you’ve got to do is get stronger. You are who you are. Be the best Mitch you can possibly be. He’s got a lot of summer here left and he’s just got to keep working at it. But he’ll have a real good chance to make the Leafs.
The only other argument would be, though — if you have Auston Matthews and you have William Nylander, would you have too many young guys to start a year with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Babcock: That’s a real good question. I spent a lot of time on that. Obviously, I have my lineups built out. Three teams for camp, two teams for exhibition, and then you get down to one. They have to solve it themselves. It’s not up to me. They decide who is on the team. When I go through it, we have some good men. We’ve acquired some good men. We have good people in our leadership group. So I think we can handle some kids. Obviously we had a lot of them last year. Having a few more this year — especially high end ones — won’t hurt us.