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Kyle Dubas, Sheldon Keefe and John Lilley meet the press

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We can meet some of the new drafted prospects as well.

2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Kyle Brown/NHLI via Getty Images

Kyle Dubas

GM Kyle Dubas gives his reasons for the players he didn’t qualify, and discusses some of his plans for the adding to the Leafs’ depth. He does say that they took a long time to decide on Frederik Gauthier. It’s very clear the Jeremy Bracco decision wasn’t difficult. Dubas does say he is interested in some unqualified players from other teams.

Dubas references “their database” of all their prospects, and how they have a lot of video on the players they just drafted. So, take note: it’s not “nose on the spreadsheet, do you even watch the games”, it’s a database.

Dubas also makes a prediction that free agency will drag out for several days, not be over in two hours. He actually mentions Monday as the day they want to see this mythical “harder to play against” roster take form.

Brandon Pridham is handling the contract discussions with Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott.

Dubas thinks the lack of trades at the draft is more because of cap space issues than the lack of in-person action on a draft floor. He thinks free agency will open things up.

If you missed the news just prior to the first round of the draft, Gary Bettman confirmed what we all know: The earliest possible start date for the NHL is now January 1, 2021. So no one has to pretend to have a roster ready for next month.

Dubas says that the players they add as the “harder to play against” types might not be the typical names people think of. They have to be able to play.

Mikko Lehtonen is considered to be a power play option, but “can defend as well”. He will come over a few weeks before training camp.

Under the heading of “this year’s draft wasn’t weird, next year’s will be”: Dubas says their scouts are not travelling at all to anywhere there are games. He thinks that’s not safe. The team is relying on video for now.

The trade up of Dmitri Ovchinnikov was for that player specifically, and they weren’t sure he’d be there if they hadn’t traded up.

When asked, Dubas says he would like to increase his cap space, but there are no contracts they feel aren’t returning value. There might be trades that create space, but it’s not guaranteed.

When asked, plaintively, why he keeps drafting without regard to size, Dubas states the obvious: The big and intimidating players can be found in free agency, and that drafting is for a different set of considerations.

Dubas mentions Tampa when explaining why he’s not afraid of drafting Russians. Note: He mentions Olegs Koreskovs, and it sounds like Korshkov. Koreskovs is actually Latvian and no relation to Yegor.

Sheldon Keefe

This video starts mid-thought about Keefe’s search for a new assistant. He does mention that he played against Manny Malhotra, and was very interested to talk to him. The Leafs hired him almost instantly after the conversation actually happened.

Keefe outlines his thoughts on Paul MacLean, as well.

About the roster now: “More difficult to play against” comes up again. Keefe says his focus is on development of the players that are on the team. Solidifying the defence and having lines one through four all contributing is his goal.

Keefe clarifies that he doesn’t want a team that is just more physical. He says you can get more physical and be a worse team, but he wants players to be more competitive. He again discusses that the current roster has to get better and they all have more to give.

When asked to describe what they want on defence, he describes a paragon of defensive ability who likely doesn’t exist.

He has a catch phrase already about teams that are really physical and really hard to play against who never make the playoffs. You can decide which teams (Buffalo) those are. But he doesn’t want to (Buffalo) be that (Buffalo). He wants to be a team that plays at a high standard consistently and be ready for the playoffs. He carries on to say in the next answer that this is what he wants from Travis Dermott.

As an aside: Mike Babcock said things like this every single offseason. His talk about grinding out the difficult times, and always being ready to face the next game is just this same conversation with different words.

Keefe clarifies that MacLean will not travel with the team. He’s more of a consultant with a different perspective.

John Lilley

The Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting speaks once a year, and he ran down the list of just-drafted players.

They’ve had their eye on Rodion Amirov since the U18 championships. They like his forecheck and his backchecking as well as his offensive skills and skating.

Roni Hirvonen is very smart, and needs better “outright speed”.

Topi Niemela is a really good defender at closing gaps and taking away space. He’s a first-pass player, not an offensive specialist. Very smart defensively, best defensive instincts in the draft for them.

You can actually tell he doesn’t know anything about Artur Akhtyamov, which is excellent news. Someone else scouts the goalies.

William Villeneuve is “raw” as we all know if we’ve read the scouting reports, but he has been piling up points in the Q.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov is someone they only recently discovered, and they like his speed and offensive abilities.

Veeti Miettinen caught their eye for his goal scoring.

Axel Rindell, who plays for Mikko Kokkonen’s team, moves the puck well and skates well.

Joe Miller is heading for NCAA, but is underdeveloped with blazing speed and skill.

John Fusco is very competitive and plays hard.

Wyatt Schingoethe, another NCAA player eventually, with a long development path.

Ryan Tverberg is not actually set to play for Harvard this year, but will play for the Junior Canadians for another year.

All the late-round NCAA bound players seem to have been picked because they are long-term projects with upside.

For draft lists for next year, Lilley says they may start now with old video and interviews first, which they usually do last. They’ll just have to wait for players to start playing, but in the interim watch a lot of video.

And to be honest, I tuned out of the question and answer half of this. You might find some insight in the discussions however.

The Prospects

If you want to see all the video chats with the new players, start here and it should advance through all of them all for you: