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From the Branches: Leafs invite future Hall of Famer to development camp

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Four time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser shares her expertise.

Hayley Wickenheiser #22 of Canada handles the puck against Michelle Karvinen #21 and Jenni Hiirikoski #6 of Finland during the ice hockey women’s semifinal game on day 11 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 22, 2010 in Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Look, you can see the name on the byline and Hayley fucking Wickenheiser has been at dev camp all week — if you thought I was going to talk about anyone else you must be new here. (Welcome!) You can return to your regularly scheduled John Tavares circus tomorrow, don’t worry.

Wick turned up at camp this week, helping to run drills and coach scrimmages. The usual internet trolls had questions about what a woman can teach the Leafs prospects. Those same trolls would be appalled if I pointed out that Auston Matthews plays a very women’s hockey style of game. Not a lot of hitting, (but plenty of puck battles) a lot of movement, excellent hand-eye co-ordination, and a lot of scoring close to the net.

Wickenheiser spoke to the media after yesterday’s scrimmages:

She revealed that Dubas invited her to camp a few months ago, and that they’d talked a few times since then. As well, she indicated that she’d be open to a continuing relationship with the Leafs, if it made sense. Her focus is on individual player development more than bench coaching, although she said that she thought there were a few women who would be both able and willing to step behind an NHL bench. (One of the coaches she may have been thinking of could be her former national team teammate and her coach when she was with the University of Calgary Dinos, Hall of Famer Danielle Goyette.)

Another thing Wickenheiser brings to the camp is that her son Noah is 18. (Pause, while some of us feel very very old.) She deals with guys around the same ages as these prospects every day - I’m sure her Momvoice is on point. Really if Hayley Wickenheiser is Momvoicing you while you’re on the ice, you’re probably going to pay attention right quick.

Prospect Brady Ferguson, a kid from Texas who was with the Marlies for five games this year on an ATO and signed an AHL contract with them last week mentions her in his interview today as well:

There would be a few obstacles to Wickenheiser joining the Leafs. First, she’s still aiming for medical school, which wouldn’t leave her a lot of free time. Second, Wick is known for being very forthright. She’s not as blunt in this interview as she has been in others but considering that Dubas seems to want to continue Lou’s tradition of playing cards close to the chest, the Leafs might not be the best fit for her.

Still, if the Leafs could work something out and they could get a legend like Wickenheiser on the development staff, it would be both a boost for the team and a large step forward for the NHL.

ICYMI

PPP Roundtable: John Tavares Free Agent Circus Edition - PPP Staff
Where we kvetch about this week-long drama.

Maple Leafs rearrange the scouting and player personnel departments and add Wes Clark - KatyaKnappe
The departure of Mark Hunter left a void at the top of the player personnel ladder. Kyle Dubas has moved to fill it and has added Wes Clark back to the staff.

Can Riley Nash fill the hole at centre on the Maple Leafs? - KatyaKnappe
He’s not the name on everyone’s lips, but could a depth signing of this sort make the Leafs better?

Around the league

Blackhawks to sign goaltender Cam Ward to 1-year, $2.5 million deal, per report - Second City Hockey
I speak for all 30 other teams in the league when I say, oh please go ahead.

Rick Nash undecided about playing next season | The Star
Veteran winger has told teams he will not be signing on July 1 when NHL free agency opens

Colorado Avalanche officially name the Utah Grizzlies as their ECHL affiliate - Mile High Hockey
The Avalanche hope championships and development follow with their affiliation move to Utah

Get to know Montreal native Olivier Galipeau, as he looks to make the most of his surprise opportunity with rival Boston Bruins - Stanley Cup of Chowder
This guy fled the Habs dev camp to go play for the Bruins. On one hand, both teams are anathema but on the other at least Boston's less of a tire fire. Good move, kid.

I leave you with Hayley Wickenheiser’s ideas (circa 2015) of what makes the perfect hockey player.

It’s supposed to be a hot one in the GTA today, so it’s a good day for ice in your drink or to go find ice at your local rink. Happy Friday!