After Wednesday’s practice, Sheldon Keefe discussed Fraser Minten remaining with the big club for the time being, William Nylander moving back to the wing in practice, and John Klingberg’s injury status.
Practice Lines – Oct. 4
Leafs practice lines:
Bertuzzi — Matthews — Marner
Domi — Tavares — Nylander
Knies — Minten — Järnkrok
McMann — Kämpf — Reaves
Extras: Robertson, Lafferty, Gregor, Holmberg, Clifford
Rielly — Brodie
McCabe — Benoit
Giordano — Liljegren
Kokkonen — Lagesson/Lajoie
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) October 4, 2023
What went into putting John Tavares and William Nylander back together?
Keefe: It was really just about getting Fraser Minten in the mix. I wanted to get Minten in and still maintain, John, Auston, and David Kampf. It was a good way to do that today.
It is not a reflection of Willy at all. It is more that we need to make a decision on Fraser, obviously. We need to put him in a position to play with the group.
Do you think Minten has a chance to make the team?
Keefe: He is still here. Everybody who is here has a chance to make the team.
What are you keeping an eye on with Minten in the last few days of camp and the remaining preseason games?
Keefe: How does he fit in with the group? I haven’t seen Detroit’s lineup yet in terms of what they will bring, but to me, he kind of passed the first test. He goes to Montreal and plays head-to-head against Suzuki or Dach every shift. He did a great job there. That is one test.
We didn’t play him the other night. It was more so because he had played a ton of hockey for a young guy. We gave him that night off, but we want to get him back in and still keep most of our group together. I moved Willy out of the middle there, so it gives us a good chance to look at a group like this.
We haven’t made final decisions on the lineup tomorrow, but it will look a lot like it did today.
What would tell you that Minten is ready?
Keefe: It is a combination of things. It’s a combination of whether he is ready for us and if we are ready for him. We will go through that, but while we have games to play, we are going to use him and give him an opportunity to grow and develop. Whether it results in him sticking around this year or just helps him to be closer when he comes back, setting him up for success if he goes back… We will get that sorted in time.
There is not a lot of time left, but we want to take advantage of all of the reps that we do have.
William Nylander has said the biggest adjustment at center is in the defensive zone. What do you want him to work at in the defensive zone specifically?
Keefe: It is about your low play down below the dots. You have to close quickly. It takes more energy. You are covering more ice to come back and get to that space. You are covering more ice to get up the ice and get back on offense. It is harder. There is more effort required.
We have Domi alongside him. Domi has taken on a lot of time down low as well, which kind of happens. If you look at a lot of the games, a lot of the centers are not always playing low. It is not an all-the-time thing, which is why you are a little more open to it for a guy who hasn’t played a ton of it.
We think it fits his skill set really well, but as we have said from the beginning of camp, he is always going to play both. He is always going to move around. In order to open up that spot for Fraser for today, that’s what we did.
Is Simon Benoit doing what you hoped he would do in terms of establishing himself?
Keefe: I don’t know if he has established himself, but he has made progress. For a guy coming in and looking to make an impression, it was a tough go for him not to be healthy from the start.
I thought he was better in the second game than he was in the first. That is progress. There is more time remaining here for us to continue to look at him.
Is there any update on John Klingberg?
Keefe: I think he may be back on the ice tomorrow. He is close.