Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs practice
Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs practice

After Friday’s practice, head coach Sheldon Keefe discussed the injury status of Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, and Joel Edmundson as well as Simon Benoit’s new contract extension.

How did Mitch Marner look today, and what is the next step for him in his recovery path?

Keefe: Mitch looked good today. In terms of the next step, I would say it is further participation in practice. We won’t have another practice until Tuesday. I would say, once we get into that territory, you start to think about when to put him back in. But we are not there yet.

Is it more of a conditioning thing at this point after he wasn’t able to skate with his injury?

Keefe: I am not so much worried about conditioning necessarily with Mitch, but you want to build up the workload and get used to playing in competitive situations to make sure you’re very comfortable. We will just continue to grow his workload through practices.

It is a challenge at this time of year because you are trying to prepare the team to play tomorrow night against Buffalo and you also have players you are trying to bring along such as Mitch. We will manage it as best we can. We won’t have another chance to do it until Tuesday in this case, and then we will take it a day at a time from there.

How is Morgan Rielly doing?

Keefe: He is progressing well. He won’t be available tomorrow, but he looks like he has turned the corner. He should be on the ice in the next day or so.

What is the outlook for Timothy Liljegren in terms of a timeline? 

Keefe: The timeline is not exactly set, but it is not a day-to-day situation. It is more week-to-week, I would say. We are not expecting it to outlast the regular season.

Is it the same with Joel Edmundson?

Keefe: Similar, yeah.

With Simon Benoit’s new contract, what is the message to him as well as Bobby McMann, both of whom have been rewarded with the new deals recently?

Keefe: The first thing is that the organization believes in them. That is really important. It is a reward for the work that they have done, but it is also the belief you have in them. Not only are they playing important parts on the team now, but we also believe they are going to continue to get better and be important parts of the team going forward.

I don’t know how many players I have coached in my time here, but I have coached a lot of players, and a lot of guys have come and gone. Some continuity and having guys you are bringing along who are growing with the team is really important.

In McMann and Benoit’s cases, we think they are guys who can continue to grow with the group.

Coming into camp, where was Benoit on the depth chart compared to now?

Keefe: He was a depth guy. He was brought in to compete in camp. He had a tough camp. He got injured. It took him a while to get acclimated.

The feeling was that he had some elements that we lacked — size, length, physicality. It was good to have that option available to us. We were just going to watch him compete. He had played a lot in the league, too. That was another part of it that you like — some experience.

You like him when you brought him in, but numbers in camp are always tight. The salary cap is always tight. He ended up having to go spend time with the Marlies. He did so with a great attitude. He was very realistic about the way his camp had gone. He knew that he didn’t have a great camp or didn’t show as much as he would’ve liked to. He went down, worked on his game, came up, and took advantage of the opportunities that he got. It has been great.

He has approached this last month very similarly. Since the trade deadline, he was out of the lineup for a little bit, but he has used that time wisely to stay ready as I told him he should be doing. The opportunity will come back around, and it has. He has done a good job coming in.

He is a player who you want to show belief in because he is going to put in the work. We believe he is going to continue to get better. He has fit in really well around here. He brings lots of energy, enthusiasm, and personality to the group, too, which is an important thing. It gives our group a different element. You like having him in there for reasons.

We have also seen that with the additions of Edmundson and Lyubushkin, you can never have enough depth. Benoit is a good example of why Tre went out and signed him at a time when we didn’t exactly know where he fit in, but we knew we needed another guy. Here we are.

What have you seen from TJ Brodie since the healthy scratches?

Keefe: I think he has come in and has done his job. That is really it. Last night was the best of the games he has played since coming back.

That is really it. I don’t think we have seen a massive change in him or anything like that. I just think he has gone out and done his job. That is really what you need.

He is a guy who plays important minutes for us. He plays a type of role and position for us that doesn’t get a lot of notice or accolades, but he has a very important job to play for us. He seemed to do that well.

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