Mitch Marner’s trainer discusses the young Leaf’s athletic prowess, some late July FA signings trickle in for the Leafs’ Atlantic Division rivals, and more in the links.
Noble: Marner is pound for pound one of the strongest players in NHL (TSN1050)
Dan Noble, director of athlete performance at the Hill Academy and trainer of Mitch Marner, joined Dave and Matt Cauz to discuss Marner’s underrated strength, his NHL potential and how smaller players are thriving in the league.
On how Marner succeeded despite his size as a rookie:
Even now, when he comes in to train, I think people don’t even recognize him. They see this kid walk off the street and into the gym and people are like, “He looks familiar, but there’s no way that guy plays in the NHL.” The one thing I tell people about Mitch is people underestimate how strong he is. He is probably, pound for pound, one of the strongest players in the NHL. I know people might argue with me about that and might think that’s crazy, but the kid is 170 pounds bouncing back and forth and can back squat 400 pounds parallel and has incredible body control.
I’m not big on trying to turn Mitch into a weight lifter and that’s not what he is. I think it’s important as a performance coach to recognize what your athlete is. Mitch is an F1 race car and you need to treat him like that and understand what makes him unique — his speed and his explosiveness and his ability to control his body in tight situations and get in and out of corners without getting hit and put through the boards.
In terms of our approach with him, it’s all about maintaining that and just becoming the absolute best at being as fast and as quick with the change of direction and being strong on the puck and strong on his feet. From a single-leg perspective and power, he can use his abilities and the strength that he has, rather than just being OK and strong. Mitch is never going to be 220 pounds and you don’t want him to be.
Dan Robson came in and did an interview with him and Doug Gilmour in our gym last week. It was interesting hearing them both talk about their first-year experiences and what they were like. Doug Gilmour said he was 150 pounds his first year in the NHL. I think for Mitch it is all about understanding who he is as a player and not trying to be something he’s not and continuing to focus on where his strengths lie.
On Marner’s potential:
Our big focus this summer is all about the process. Everyone talks about the weight and questions like that in terms of what’s next; whether he can be part of the guys that bring the Cup to Toronto. Everyone is kind of getting ahead of themselves and talking about dynasty. For us, it’s just about focusing on every day getting up and being as good as possible; being the best you are and getting better every day.
From an athletic standpoint evaluating him, I show him an exercise or a complex movement and he picks it up just by watching. He is by far one of the best athletes I’ve ever worked with, and he’s been like that since he was in grade 8. I was looking at his scores — I’ve got all of the test scores from when he was 12 — and he ran a 14.1 beep test in grade 8, which is crazy. If Mitch can continue to master the process and understand how to take care of his body and continue to learn how to eat right and train and continue to do the right things every day, the sky is the limit. I think he has the ability to be a top-five player rather than just a guy that is there and contributes. We talk about that all of the time: “What do you want to be? Do you want to just be there and be good, or do you want to be someone who contributes to changing the game and changing the way people look at athletes of your body size? I think that’s what motivates him, is when little kids and younger athletes with a smaller stature look at him and see that the sport is changed. The sport is moving more towards a guy like Mitch’s favour.
If Mitch can continue to master the process and understand how to take care of his body and continue to learn how to eat right and train and continue to do the right things every day, the sky is the limit. I think he has the ability to be a top-five player rather than just a guy that is there and contributes. We talk about that all of the time: “What do you want to be? Do you want to just be there and be good, or do you want to be someone who contributes to changing the game and changing the way people look at athletes of your body size? I think that’s what motivates him, is when little kids and younger athletes with a smaller stature look at him and see that the sport is changed. The sport is moving more towards a guy like Mitch’s favour.
On when he knew Mitch was a special athlete:
I don’t think I really knew what he was going to be until he went into London his first year. I think that was a good thing for him. You see Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews who have been these chosen prodigies and everyone knew what they were going to be. Mitch always had this kind of achilles heel; he’s got great skill, but he’s small. I think that’s been something that he’s always used as fuel for his ability to prove people wrong and his competitiveness.
The one thing I tell people all the time — it didn’t matter what we were playing, whether it was dodgeball in gym class or handball, he is just competitive as hell and hated to lose, and loved to compete and enjoyed it. I think that stuck out to me early on right away. He would be in grade 8 and hang around guys like Nick Ritchie and Brett Ritchie, right in their hip pockets challenging those guys and trying to compete and keep up with them. I think that’s always been his mentality — to look above and beyond and try to compete with the best.
Rasanen hopes to make 6-foot-7 presence felt with Maple Leafs (NHL.com)
At the NHL Scouting Combine in June, Rasanen’s combination of offensive ability, impressive size and strength, and affinity for a rugged type of game made him an intriguing prospect, and he said he was interviewed by 16 NHL teams, including the Maple Leafs. “I felt like they were more interested than other teams,” he said. “I really don’t even know how to say it, I felt great [to be drafted]. It’s always been a dream.”
Top 25 under 25: The case for Dakota Joshua (PPP)
Over the last year Dakota played only four more games but doubled his output — twice as many goals, twice as many assists. He was second in sophomore scoring for the Buckeyes with 35 points; Mason Jobst was first with 55, and was top 20 in all Division 1 sophomore scoring (Jobst was first again). The majority of of Joshua’s points came at even strength (8G, 12A), while the rest came from the power play (4G, 11A). If Dakota Joshua can keep up improving his scoring as he enters his junior year, he’ll be making a strong case for himself to the Leafs.
Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal (PHT)
Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st. The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.
Report: Bruins Sign Spooner to 1yr $2.825m Deal (SCOH)
With his salary being below most estimates through arbitration this deal is likely in the Bruins favor. Spooner should be motivated to prove his worth on a one year deal, whereas the Bruins can ease center prospects like JFK into the lineup instead of relying on them from the start of the season. If Spooner performs well, the Bruins can decide to keep him, or move him close to the deadline for picks/prospects/player.
Montreal Canadiens sign Mark Streit to a 1-year, $700,000 deal (SB Nation)
This signing for the Canadiens adds an extremely cheap, yet versatile defenseman to their back end. While Montreal has approximately $8.5 million in cap space to play with this offseason, the signing of Streit could very well signal that the Canadiens are out on re-signing fellow blueliner Andrei Markov. The 38-year-old defenseman had 36 points in 62 games last season with the Canadiens, but his asking price of two years at $6 million each is likely too much for Montreal.
Mark Streit is a great value signing by the Canadiens (HEOTP)
If this is a signing in addition to Bergevin adding Markov back into the lineup, then the Habs have done extremely well to bolster their depth with a solid mix of defensive players and puck movers on defence. If it’s a standalone move in an attempt to find a cheap solution to replace Markov, then the Habs might be in for a rough patch this year, as they adjust to the loss of their best playmaking defender.