Kyle Dubas joined James Duthie on the TSN pre-game show to discuss three of the Leafs’ top prospects — Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, and Nick Abruzzese — and the likelihood they could move a high-end prospect in order to improve the current roster before the trade deadline.
What do you expect Rasmus Sandin and Nick Robertson to bring to the big club, and when?
Dubas: Both have already played for the team. In terms of what we expect them to bring, Rasmus was drafted in 2018 in Dallas, and he brings to us tremendous intelligence, ability to make plays, and he continues to improve his ability to defend. He has had injuries to start the season with the Marlies, but he is trending towards returning next week. We would expect him, in the second half of the season, to contribute to the Leafs and be ready to go in the playoffs for us.
In Nick’s case, he made the team last season going into the playoff bubble in Toronto. He contributed in our series in Columbus, started the season with the Leafs, and was injured in our third game. He has come back from the injury and performed very well for the Marlies here this week. He will get another game with the Marlies tomorrow. When we return from the trip, we will revisit where he is at.
He is certainly someone that we also expect to challenge for our roster. His shot is his best attribute, but he continues to improve his play-making ability. He brings tremendous energy every shift. We expect both guys to be big parts of our club for a long time.
The Ivy League suspended play this season, so Nick Abruzzese has not played at all. What would you say is the NHL upside for the 21-year-old?
Dubas: He was the leading scorer in the NCAA as a freshman last year. He has got the combination of tremendous intelligence and skill level, but his passion for hockey and his drive to get better is outstanding. He can play wing and center. He was a fourth-round pick of ours going back to that draft in 2019. He is a player who, because of how he fits our system with his hockey sense and his skill level — and more importantly, his passion for development as a player — we are really excited about his versatility and how he will fit with our group.
His ability to make plays and pass the puck, especially, at even strength and on the power play — with our centers and who we already have as core members of our club, it is imperative we find players like Nick through the draft and as free agents in college and Europe who can come in and complement them. We feel he will be a tremendous fit with our core group of forwards as we move ahead.
You have acknowledged the possibility of using one of the top prospects as a trade chip this year. We are 10 days away from the deadline. What are the chances that all of your top prospects are still around come the trade deadline?
Dubas: It really depends on what our trading partners are looking for. It is no secret that we are going to be a team that is going to be looking to acquire players at the deadline. We will see where our needs are as it evolves in the next week or so prior to the deadline.
What I would say is that some teams are looking for draft picks, some teams are looking for prospects, and other teams are looking for roster players. We will remain as flexible as we can on all fronts to improve our team here and work with the teams that are looking to move out players and are in a different stage of their franchise evolution than we are.
I would say it is all on the table for us at this point. If we are going to move one of the higher-end guys, I would say it would need to be an extremely significant deal. We are not opposed to it. We will see how everything evolves as we get towards April 12th and we see how our team continues to evolve in terms of performance and in terms of health. That is going to be a huge factor as we head towards the deadline and try to improve our team.