Mike Babcock

This one is short, and there’s a lot of noise, so not a lot was said. There’s a bit about Patrick Marleau, and then the question is asked about who is the left wing with him gone. Babcock immediately mentions Ilya Mikheyev, who is nominally a right wing.  Babcock also mentions that there’s cap space now, opening up the opportunity to add a player. Which is not impossible, but needs a decent contract from Marner, who Babcock clearly thinks is a slam dunk to sign. And his, “Obviously we’ve got some work to do there,” comment that has been circulated is about the general state of the defence in response to a question about prospects taking over for Gardiner and Dermott. He’s avoiding saying anything about that by deflecting the question.

Kyle Dubas

This is a long interview that is very open. I urge you to listen to all of it.

He discusses the Marleau deal, and is upfront about how steep the price paid was. Dubas says that he felt it was worth it to avoid losing a player. He does delve into something that seems meaningless on the surface. He says you have to value both the cap hit and the cash salary, which to the Leafs is nearly irrelevant.

What’s at issue here is the fact that to lessen the cash impact of Marleau’s deal, and have the Leafs pay the signing bonus, he then can’t be traded until after the buyout period is over, and he cannot be bought out in the second buyout window since he’d be a new acquisition. Part of the steep price paid was to compensate a team like Carolina for whom ignoring real dollars like they’re Canadian Tire money is not a luxury they enjoy.

He also talks about the difference between picks, which are unknowns, and actual players who have a firm value.

(Lowkey funny is Pierre LeBrun on his phone until he wants to ask a question.)

The Marner question is answered with, “We’re working on it,” but when Dubas switches to talk of Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen — he confirms the deals if not the amounts — he’s effusive about the effects of having that nailed down now. That seems pointed and directed at Marner.

For me, the most interesting slip of the tongue is when Dubas nearly says, “We still don’t have that much cap space,” when asked about Jake Gardiner, but he switches to just general discussion of how great Jake is. It’s hard to judge the Gardiner talk lately. Are they serious about getting that much space? Maybe we should listen to his discussion of the Nikita Zaitsev situation for clues, even though Dubas turns the conversation towards Marner being the holdup for sorting out the defence.

Dubas says nothing about Zaitsev other than, “We need a similar player back ...  and we don’t want to rush our prospects.” Which sounds like we should expect Zaitsev to not be moved. On the other hand, it sounded like that regarding Marleau just a few days ago. “We’ll see where this goes” is still the motto to live by.

Speaking of LeBrun, he asks about the general state of RFA signings, and Dubas talks about how this new world full of a big group of top talent is an unknown for all the teams. It’s not just the Leafs.

He also talks about the drafted players, and how excited he is about them all, which we all are today. He specifically talks about Nick Robertson, and how well the organization knows him and likes him. They consider him a longer term growth project because of his late birthday — he’s one of the youngest players in the draft.

John Lilley

Next up is John Lilley, the Maple Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting. He says the word skill so many times, it stops having any meaning.

The first question is about all the small guys, and he just shrugs it off and says the list falls how it falls, and they just went for the kinds of players the organization wants. To be clear, that’s not small for the sake of small.

After the word skill, comes the word smart. Lilley talks about Nick Abruzzese in particular as a smart player. He also mentions that Abruzzese is a little physically underdeveloped even though he’s older than some other picks.

The Leafs have a type and it’s: skilled, smart, good hockey sense, good person, hard worker, driven, committed, and they don’t care at all about height, weight and how far along he is on his development career. “Don’t care” doesn’t mean they think a small player is automatically better either. If you look at the draft, you’ll see some famous names they skipped over. On the other hand, they took Mike Koster, who had dropped well below his ranking. Interestingly they never talk much about skating in particular as a skill, even though it’s become a bit of an obsession with fans and amateur scouts.

The Draftees

We have interviews with the top two picks:

In response to a question, Nick Robertson talks about the rise of Asian players (Nick is Filipino-American), particularly in California, and he mentions the importance of representation for other kids. His story is a lot like Auston Matthews tale of his mother sacrificing everything for him and his siblings to succeed. Robertson played in Michigan, Toronto and now in the OHL, even though his family is from California. We’re all going to learn his story, but it’s quite the tale. And somehow I’m only learning now that Jason Robertson is his brother. Jason was drafted in 2017 by the Stars.

Nick talks about Trevor Moore, who he sees as proof of concept for a small guy like him.

The other player to be interviewed is Mikko Kokkonen, who hasn’t got total confidence in his English yet, so it’s short:

Paul Hendrick has a longer talk with him, and he’s had a lot of practice with guys who need a little help and confidence in their English so you get more of a sense of Kokkonen:

He likes Kimmo Timonen, who was a similar sized defenceman, who played an offensively-focused game.

For all the details on the draft picks, go here:

Toronto Maple Leafs 2019 draft summary