On Episode 4 of the MLHS podcast, Justin Bourne, Ian Tulloch, and Anthony Petrielli discussed the development of Travis Dermott and what he needs to do to take the next step in ice time and responsibility.
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Tulloch: One guy who loves jumping up on pucks in the neutral zone is Travis Dermott. He is someone Justin and I have talked about a lot over the years. He developed incredibly well with the Toronto Marlies. If you look at his skating ability, his gap control, and his edgework, he is someone who I always thought was going to develop into a top-four defenseman.
It hasn’t happened yet. He is still getting ice time in the 11-12 minute range. He is not getting any PK time. He is just a sheltered five-on-five guy who is not playing a lot of minutes.
He is still someone who we have liked in the past and we see things in his game that make us think this is a modern play driver — a guy who can get the puck out of your end and keep the opposition from gaining the zone. That is the modern game; the transition game.
What does he need to do to elevate his game top-four status? Sheldon Keefe and his staff aren’t seeing it. They played Mikko Lehtonen more minutes than him the other night.
Bourne: He is a great example of when we look at teams and think they have prospects. “Guys are coming. Dermott is on the way.” Do you know how good the top three guys are on an NHL team? Dermott projected to be an NHL defenseman and he is an NHL defenseman. This is good for what he could be or was going to be. We get a little bit too excited about prospects sometimes.
What he needs to do to be a top-four guy: Realize he is not going to be a top-two guy, and realize that Jake Muzzin makes $5.5 million by just playing hockey and trying to keep the puck out of his net and running into guys here or there.
I wonder if Dermott feels like the progression was natural: Marlies went well, Leafs went well, and he was climbing. He still plays this twitchy, excited game like he wants to be PK Subban sometimes. He is a twitchy player. Sometimes you’ll see the puck is in his feet, his stick is in the air, and he is looking to do all of this stuff. Put your stick down, put it on the ice near the puck, and pass it to someone. We just need you to play defense.
I think they are frustrated they have to shelter him, put him in the o-zone, and protect him a little bit. He is better with a partner who can stay at home and play defense. They rather not protect him. They want him to be someone they can trust to play defense.
For him, a lot of forwards have come to grips with the fact that they are not going to score 50 goals in the NHL. They have become grinders. Andrew Cogliano is still killing it in the NHL. Go through the list of NHL players who say, “I guess I’ve got to do something different.” Dermott has to have that talk with himself and say, “If I am going to play in the NHL, I need to be a defense-man, and play defense.”
Petrielli: Trying to get into his head a little bit, especially with the way he was treated early on, they threw him on the power play. But he hasn’t touched the power play in the last few years nor will he any time soon. It is not going to happen. They brought Mikko Lehtonen over and gave him PP2 time. For Dermott, if there is a power play, that is where you are sitting.
Tulloch: Rasmus Sandin was ahead of him on the depth chart there on the power play. I thought Dermott might make sense on the penalty kill with his gap and his ability to say, “Okay, maybe on a PK2 after we ice the puck and need to prevent them from gaining the zone, that might be something he is amazing at.” That is his skill set: gapping up in the neutral zone. I guess you’re concerned, when they gain the zone, about whether he is someone who is going to take away that pass through the middle of the ice and read the play as it develops.
Bourne: That is a great point. If you can’t play on either special teams unit and you are a bottom pair guy, they’ll find someone better. He has to find a way to be a regular contributor and an important part of a PK, for sure.
There are some guys — Mikheyev comes to mind, too — where you don’t want to have a cup of coffee and a redbull before the game. For Dermott, I would like him to have half Robitussin and half water in his water bottle and play a quieter game.
Tulloch: Or meditate.
Bourne: Haha, yeah, that would make me much more confident in what you are going to get from him on a given night.