Nazem Kadri’s leadership role, Mike Babcock drilling Team Canada into shape, McLellan on Matthews, and more in the links.
Looks like the same lines at North America practice today: Drouin-McDavid-Scheifele, Gaudreau-Eichel-Saad, Matthews-RNH-MacKinnon
— Michael Traikos (@Michael_Traikos) September 7, 2016
Overall, Gardiner enters the 2016-17 season with high expectations. Now 26 years old, Gardiner is in the prime of his career and he is one of the longest-tenured members of the organization. Aside from re-signing Roman Polak and bringing in Zaitsev from the KHL, the Leafs made few significant changes to their defensive core this offseason. For the young Leafs to surprise, they’re going to need a big season from a matured Jake Gardiner in his second season under Mike Babcock.
McLellan had one word to describe Matthews: wow. The Oilers’ coach said the Leafs prospect shares a lot of characteristics with Edmonton star Connor McDavid. “They are different players, but the wow factor, the maturity, the size, the strength, the poise with the puck, the ability to pick up concepts really quick,” McLellan said, pointing out some similarities. “And for me, he’s not intimidated at all by any of the players that are out there.”
“He seems like a really good kid,” Kadri said of Matthews. “[I] gave him the rundown of what happened last year and what to expect and to not put too much pressure on himself. If you see all these successful teams and contending teams, they’ve got depth down the middle. Either way you cut it…you’re going to need everyone to make a contribution and to play together. We’re not playing against each other; we’re a team, we’re playing together. The roles are assumed at the beginning of the year, but at the end of the day we need everyone to come to play every day and that’s what’s going to help us win.”
Mitch Marner racing back on defence and sprawling out to block a shot is the best thing I've seen at summer skate so far
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 7, 2016
“Whether you get a letter on your sweater or not, you still have to lead by example and that’s what I intend on doing. Obviously Babs has stressed to me he wants me to take on that leadership role, just be a good example for the young guys. I’m still learning as well, I don’t know it all by any means. But I’ll do the best I can to help these kids, make them understand and help them play in a market like Toronto.”
Grubauer added to Team Europe as Frederik Andersen's replacement. Likely to be third goalie but he's been great for Germany internationally.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) September 6, 2016
“[Babcock] doesn’t miss any details,” New York Islanders captain John Tavares said. “Everything will get covered. He definitely makes his points directly and wants us to be efficient in the way we practice and the way we play. Everything is covered. We have such a short time frame to work on everything. He wants everything to be done well and be done right.”
So, the Leafs have Auston Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk who will all, eventually, be high level, playmaking, goal scoring forwards, four of whom have experience at centre. That seems like a problem that isn’t a problem at all.