The traditional pre-draft conversations between GMs and the press are going on virtually this year, instead of on a draft floor. Today Kyle Dubas did his virtual press conference.
Watch at TSN:
Some highlights from various topics are below, but like always, actually listening to the question and the answer is much more revealing.
The 15th overall pick:
Dubas does say he hasn’t been close to trading the pick while there have been talks. He also is not ruling out any possible use of the pick including trading it up and down. The interesting part is that he says that without a draft floor to get all the GMs in once place, there’s more talk now than usual about moving draft picks. Unsurprisingly, he says that if they use the pick, they won’t pick for a specific position.
He suggests that the scouting meetings that will continue (virtually) over the rest of today will bring them some clarity on their plans. They will be moving into the Leafs dressing room for tomorrow — I take this to mean for the broadcast of the draft itself. Not all of the Leafs scouts are on-site, and the numbers of Leafs staff in the room for the draft will be much less than usual.
The Draft in general:
A very interesting question comes late in the session from Mike in Buffalo, where he asks about the issue of draft prospects whose leagues aren’t playing and who only have two years of draft rights. He wants to know if that will affect who the Leafs choose. Dubas doesn’t give a totally firm no, but he does say that they feel the Leafs can handle all the challenges of development with the situation as it is now. They have missed time with their about to be drafted prospects, and Dubas notes that they held a virtual prospect development camp.
In answer to an earlier question, Dubas mentions the players loaned to Europe as a solution for the prospects. For the North American prospects, he calls it an opportunity for players who have strength or skills limitations, where they can work on those things without games dominating their time. (This sounds like a message for Mike Koster and Nick Abruzzese).
Lance Hornby asks about Dubas’s desire to “make the Leafs harder to play against” and that the desire had been for that to happen organically. Dubas says they want to be incredibly hard to play against. He calls it a priority for free agency.
He references other teams in the playoffs who had players who had to start playing a different way. Dubas returns to that theme in the later parts of the conversation where he gives a long and pointed set of remarks about how Tampa came back from a disaster last year and had all of their best players perform excellently in the playoffs. Suffice it to say, he’s not banging the drum for grit, even though that is exactly how his comments to the Hornby question will get played.
Another interesting point is when Dubas mentions that financial realities in the NHL now mean that whoever the Leafs pick “at 15 or 44” might be in the NHL much sooner than they used to bring along prospects. He promises not to rush anyone, but he does point out that prospects like Nick Robertson show up at the draft with excellent habits around training and physical development.
Dubas hasn’t got much to say here other than he confirms the obvious, that players and teams both will want more back-loaded contracts. Dubas mentions this is the first year with no interview period, and that he doesn’t have big UFAs to sign, so it’s not something he’s got much insight into. (Uh huh)
As widely reported, Dubas states firmly that Andersen will be the starter on the team next season “as of this moment”. This is exactly the same sort of thing he said about Nazem Kadri last year prior to the draft, so remember that Dubas’s job is to make the best decisions for the team, and he’s not in government — he’s actually allowed to lie to us all.
The Leafs will take their time, and watch for players on other teams that are un-qualified, and then make decisions about who they are interested in adding as improvements.