Mike Babcock addressed the media after day two of on-ice training camp sessions, discussing early impressions at camp, the plans for the penalty kill, and much more.

How enviable is it to be in a camp where you’ve got three of your lines going head to head on back to back days to get themselves prepared for the preseason?

Babcock: I’m not sure those are lines, but they are definitely nine of the forwards that are in the mix on the team. Kappy has looked unreal as well. I think Lindholm has looked good. I thought Goat looked good. We’ve got some guys doing a lot of good things. We’ve got a few guys who aren’t quite up to speed, but we’ll get that sorted out.

Is Kapanen ready to be a full-time NHL player?

Babcock: I think so for sure. You’ve still got to do it. Sometimes when you arrive and you’re doing it for a little bit, you think you’ve arrived. What you realize is the guys who are the best work harder each and every summer to get better, to reinvent themselves. That is what a good pro does. It is a journey. It is not about getting there. It is about getting there and getting better every day and being a big part of a team. He’s got time.

What sort of potential do you see with John and Mitch and Zach? How could that line develop, do you think?

Babcock: We’re just going to watch over time, obviously. Without Willy here, Matty’s group isn’t quite the same. We’re going to have to figure out what is going to make them go the best. We want all three lines — all four lines, for that matter — really rolling. We think that is going to be a part of our strength — depth up front. I mean, this stuff, we’ll watch and learn more in the exhibition.

What do you think about your battle that you have going on on the blueline for the sixth spot?

Babcock: We’re going to watch that in the eight exhibition games and have more of a handle. This is getting to know how we are going to play and what we are going to do as much as anything. You’re giving lots of opportunities to your kids at camp so you kind of get to know who they are.

Nikita Zaitsev was saying that after he returned from his leg injury, his confidence never came back. How does that re-appear for him now this year?

Babcock: I saw him at the end of the year and I thought he was good for us. I thought he was really good in the Worlds. We talked a lot about that — confidence. If you talk to every player when they come, you talk about three things they want to work on and they always talk about consistency and confidence all the time. It’s the NHL. It’s hard to have your confidence all the time, but you’ve got to get back on track. A big part of that is having a whole life; having something to do outside of the rink besides thinking about hockey.

When you have a 39th birthday today for Patrick Marleau, what kind of fountain of youth has he tapped into that he should let the rest of us know about?

Babcock: I think we’ve got an 18th birthday and a 39th birthday. It just goes to show you. If you train real hard and do things right and you live right, you can play a long time if you’re an elite skater. Patty is an important guy on our team, obviously. He has been at a lot of these training camps. I think 22, to be exact. He has seen it all before. He’s just getting ready for the season.

Mitch Marner obviously took off in the second half of last season. He seems more comfortable in his skin and he’s maturing. What have you seen in the last eight or nine months with him?

Babcock: I just think, obviously, when you arrive at camp and it doesn’t go the way you wanted… We’ve got a couple of guys going through what he did at the start last year, so we’ll try to get that fixed in the next little bit. You think you’ve arrived and you realize it is a lot more work than you think. Mitch worked hard this summer. If you look at him, his back is way bigger. His lower body is way bigger. He’s confident. He feels good about himself. That is good for us. He’s a good, good player. He’s flying out there.

Has anything caught you by surprise through two days?

Babcock: I wouldn’t say by surprise, but I would tell you that I don’t know some of the answers I’d like to know, so we’re going to take the whole time to find out. Obviously, the competition level for jobs is very high. There is not much to pick between players. I think that’s the biggest thing that I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know if it’s surprises, but I don’t know.

Has anyone shown better? “I didn’t know that guy was this.” 

Babcock: I mean, there are a couple of guys that I really, really like and are maybe smarter and better skaters than I thought. I try not to say anything until I know for sure, so I just keep watching.

Without knowing who the backup goalie is going to be, Frederik Andersen has played 66 games the last couple of years. Is the organization comfortable with him playing that many, or do you guys want to play him five fewer or ten fewer?

Babcock: I think it’s great to have that plan. But what if the schedule and the points don’t add up the way you want? Then what do you do? Yeah, it’s great to say that, but we’ll see what happens.

Was there anything you asked Freddy to do this summer? Areas you asked him to work on specifically? 

Babcock: For sure. We talked to him, just like all of our players, about what the key areas are for him to focus on. He’s done that and done that in spades. Now he’s got to get ready for the year. Getting off to a good start is important for Freddy, just like the team. He’s got to put the work in.

Some of those penalty killing minutes left over the summer. Will Kapanen be a guy who can eat up some of those?

Babcock: Yeah, for sure. Someone else has to take it. Is that Lindholm? Is that Goat? He’s got to play and be key in that area as well. Brownie and Hyman for sure. And then I’d like Mitch and John to kill a little bit at the end of the power plays, but they’ve got to be good killers. It’s a good theory and it’s good for their ice time. I don’t care about that. I like winning.

It was a busy summer for John Tavares. Have you seen any signs of that slowing him down?

Babcock: I thought he was better today than he was yesterday. I expect him to be better tomorrow and he’ll just keep getting better. As he learns how we play and the nuances of what we want him to do, I think that will help him get up to speed and get going.

September 15 Scrimmage Highlights