Kyle Dubas joined the TSN broadcast at the World Junior Showcase this weekend, discussing the standout play of Leafs prospect Nick Robertson for Team USA, Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren’s odds of making the Leafs in camp, and the current status of negotiations with Mitch Marner’s camp on a new contract.
Nick Robertson — he scored a fantastic goal against Sweden. What can he add to the Leafs organization?
Dubas: We are very excited about him. He has had a wonderful week here. We’ve very proud of him and happy about the way that he has played. His focus and his determination is outstanding. He is in Toronto. He works out with Gary Roberts at Gary Roberts’ facility and we’ll constantly see him coming into our facility and working with various different instructors who are through there. He is very passionate about hockey. He is a very skilled player and fits the profile of what we are looking for and trying to do. We didn’t know whether he would get through the first cut; he’s not only gotten through the first cut here, but now he’s playing inside their top six. It is a good start for him to his post-draft career. Now he just has to continue to carry it on through the rest of the summer and then into Peterborough for the OHL regular season.
How about Mikko Kokkonen? He played a little bit on Wednesday. He is a little bit dinged up. What can he add to the program?
Dubas: The reports from our scouts… Finland played exhibition games before they came here. I think they played the Czechs and the Swiss. Our scouts who were at the games were very, very positive about the way that he was playing. He had a really good development camp with us. Our staff was very excited about him. It is disappointing he wasn’t able to come over here and play. On the bright side, he’ll get a bit of a rest and make sure he’s healthy and he’ll be ready to go for his regular season in the Finnish league.
We are excited about him. He moves the puck very well. He is a very smart defenseman. He needs to continue to work on his mobility, but he’s willing to put the work in and we feel we can help him in that area. We are excited about Mikko as well.
Head coach of Sweden, Tomas Montén, said he’d love to have Rasmus Sandin on his team at the World Juniors. Nonetheless, he said he’s played so well for the Marlies and that he’s really making a push to play for the Leafs. How close is he to becoming a Leafs defenseman?
Dubas: The Swedish team does a very good job of staying in touch with us. Last year, we had Timothy Liljegren as well and he was eligible for the team and he, unfortunately, got hurt and couldn’t play in the World Junior. Rasmus had a great year as an 18-year-old in the AHL. We’ve had back-to-back experiences in our organization with 18-year-old Swedish defensemen playing in the American league between Timothy two years ago and Rasmus last season. Rasmus this year was able to end up playing on our top pair, and especially down the stretch and into the playoffs, he was playing well over 20 minutes a night and playing in all situations. He had a great season and developed very well. All the credit has to go to him for the work that he put in to get there.
He is going to have a great chance in camp. We’ve got a real good battle coming on the backend, especially with Dermott injured at the beginning. It is going to be wide open in camp. We’ve got some veteran guys we have acquired or signed into the organization and we’ve also got Rasmus, who as a young player alongside Timothy, will be able to challenge for those positions. That will be very exciting for us. We’ll give them every chance they can to make it. If not, and if they’re still with the Marlies, Rasmus will be a key part for Sweden at the World Junior.
Can you give us any updates on the Mitch Marner situation?
Dubas: It’s really status quo at this point. I think the reality is it’s the status quo with all of these types of players around the league. There doesn’t seem to be anything really transpiring. As it gets into August, it kind of gets into a bit of a slog where there doesn’t seem to be any real progress. You don’t even hear about any real progress in any of the other situations. Hopefully, as the calendar begins to turn, we can get it towards a spot where he is ready to go for training camp. We were sure hopeful to have it done in the Spring. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that. We’ll just keep working at it and working with Darren Ferris and working with Mitch. Obviously, he is a huge part of what we do in every regard and we are hopeful he is going to be a Leaf for a very, very long time. We’ll just keep working away at it and see what happens.
Hopeful, but how confident?
Dubas: I’m confident. I am optimistic, so I will stay that way until the end.