There was a lot of media at the NHL Combine this weekend, watching, interviewing and filming the young prospects who were undergoing testing. The Leafs made some videos of some of Paul Hendrick’s interviews.
We can get a glimpse of who these young players are from these press scrums. And marvel at how young they look.
First up is Eric Brännström, a defenceman from Sweden. He has some very interesting Leafs connections. He played this season for HV71, the champion of the SHL. One of his teammates was Andreas Borgman, now signed by the Leafs. He’s also run into Carl Grundström before too, so he had thoughts on both of those players.
Brännström is also perfectly cagey about his interview with the Leafs and only says it went well. He talks about his dad and his brother a bit too. His father is a former player who is a head coach of a Division 2 team. His brother played for HV71 as well. That’s a familiar story isn’t it? Brothers raised together, competing and looking to outdo their father.
Speaking of brothers, next up is a very charming young guy, Kailer Yamamoto.
Yamamoto is a forward on the WHL team in Spokane with his older brother Keanu. Spokane is their home town, but the most famous hockey player from there is Tyler Johnson, a guy who is built a bit like Yamamoto. He worked out with Johnson last summer, and Debbie Johnson was Yamamoto’s first power skating coach. Spokane is now a hockey hometown, just like Jönköping in Sweden where Brännström has played his whole life.
Yamamoto was also interviewed by the Leafs and gives nothing away, but he has a great story about how he lost his two front teeth.
Does every guy in the draft have a brother who plays too? Pierre-Olivier Joseph, a defender we profiled only because Craig Button was so high on him in his mock draft, has a famous one in Mathieu, who is a Tampa draft pick.
The Joseph brothers are from Chambly in Quebec, and like the other two, he looks to his older brother for guidance and advice.
Next up is Cal Foote, a defender we know has a famous father, but you’ll never believe this: he has a brother he played with in junior hockey this past year in Kelowna. Cal Foote is the older brother for a change. Nolan Foote hits the draft next year.
And he sounds like all the other guys, happy to play with his brother, competitive and thrilled for his success as much as his own. His famous connection is having Matt Duchene living in his house when Duchene was a rookie in the NHL.
Foote has the great line on his too much talked about big feete (I’m not sorry). He’s working on his skating to catch up to his big feet.
Last is Nicolas Hague, a defender who towers over Hendrick, and has a voice so deep, it gives him an air of adulthood you need to remind yourself isn’t real.
He doesn’t have a brother on his team, the Mississauga Steelheads. I almost feel bad for him until he starts dropping all the hockey nicknames of his teammates who are at the combine, and it’s obvious he’s got the next best thing.
It’s a sign of how much hockey is changed that a guy that tall who plays defence talks about his shot (averaging four shots on goal per game this season) as the most important part of his skill set.
Hague is from Kitchener, so he’s a Leafs fan already, and he says he thought his interview with the Leafs went well. He really is slick in an interview and sounds as adult in content as he does in timbre.