Mike Babcock and Darren Dreger sat down for nearly 17 minutes to talk all things Toronto Maple Leafs at the World Championships in Russia.
You can watch the full interview at TSN.ca. Here are some of the highlights.
On Auston Matthews, Babcock said he's confident the 18-year-old can become a franchise No. 1 centre in the NHL.
"Oh, I think so. Elite hockey sense. Big body. Elite drive. Smart guy. Comes from a good hockey family. He's a special player."
But Babcock said he isn't willing to tip his hat on the debate with Patrik Laine for first overall. He has already spoken with Matthews and intends to speak with Laine before the tournament's over, but insisted the Leafs won't make their decision yet, using exam season as a metaphor to reinforce that you don't take the exam before the date.
"I don’t know why you’d like the exam early. I don’t know why we would either."
As with Matthews, Babcock has been impressed by what Laine brings, referring to the pair's "elite skill."
"The Laine kid is unbelievable. He looks like such a young guy and you see him on the ice and he’s a giant."
On top Leafs prospect and 2015 fourth overall pick Mitch Marner, Babcock had nothing but good things to say.
"I mean he’s unbelievably talented, he really is. He’s competitive, he doesn’t mind sticking out from the trees, he makes plays. He's a special talent. He's a super talent."
But again, Babcock wasn't prepared to admit whether he thought Marner was ready and instead said a his summer workout and eating regime would decide that.
Moving forward, Babcock acknowledged the Leafs have so many good young players that many of them won't be able to play for the team. He also said the number of players the team currently has will make it difficult to sign free agents.
"We have too many young guys for the amount of jobs. Whoever we end up taking (in the NHL Draft) is going to be immersed with a bunch of kids. Not a few kids, a bunch of kids."
After his first full season with the Leafs, Babcock is convinced the team is headed in the right direction on the ice and in the front office.
"I don’t know how long it’s going to take, I just know we’re getting there. I’m more sure than I’ve ever been of that. Our management team is excellent. Lots of ideas, lots of sharing, lots of different backgrounds, that was special."
There's a different feeling around the team, he said.
"The city is jacked right up! Our players can feel it. Our players are proud to be Leafs."
And the Leafs current young core continues to grow too. Babcock said he has watched every shift Martin Marincin, Morgan Rielly and Leo Komarov have played at the World Championships so far.
He still thinks Rielly can become an 'elite' defensemen.
"He’s confident, intelligent, real good skillset, and is getting better."
Ahead of the draft, Babcock said his relationships with Don Granato (who runs the U.S. Development Program) and Leo Komarov will allow him and the Leafs to get a real understanding of what Matthews and Laine are like.