Now that the Maple Leafs, Marlies, and Solar Bears are all out of hockey games to play, the focus of everybody has started to shift into the off-season, if not directly into next year. Many are already curious to see where exactly William Nylander and Connor Brown could slot into a potential Leafs lineup come October. According to Kyle Dubas, however, there’s no rush to make such a thing happen just yet.
“We’ll bring them up when they’re read to be NHLers all the time.” said the Leafs’ assistant and Marlies full-on General Manager during media availability on Monday afternoon. “Full time, without any doubt that they’re going to be with the Leafs, and [be able to] stay with the Leafs for the rest of their career. It would have been very easy to say ‘Oh jeez, we need a bit of a boost, and some smiles, happiness, rainbows, and butterflies with the Leafs, so bring up William Nylander and Connor Brown’. It would have also been a massive disservice to William Nylander and Connor Brown”.
The two rookies made a lot of noise on the American Hockey League’s youngest roster, leading a late season push into the Calder Cup Players. Brown led all AHL rookies in scoring with 21 goals and 40 assists, while being the only Marlies player to participate in every game on the schedule. Meanwhile, Nylander joined the team mid-way through the season, and despite being the league’s second youngest regular player at eighteen years old, put up 32 points in 37 games.
Dubas expressed an interest in following a similar “over-ripening” model to the Detroit Red Wings, whose Grand Rapids Griffins were the team to eliminate the Marlies from the playoffs this weekend. In outlining the method, he stressed the need for competition to fuel the double-edge equation. “You’ve got to have good players on top that are significantly better than [your younger] players, so that it takes them longer to usurp the players ahead.”
In the case of Nylander, the Leafs are pretty set. The Calgary-born Swede has spent most of his time in North America on the Left Wing, which at the moment leaves him with the hurdle of overtaking James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul. Even with talent considered, this isn’t an easy task for a teenager. Brown has a it a bit easier, in the sense that the second line right wing spot is wide open at the moment, though management would prefer to see him make the leap out of growth and evolution rather than by circumstance.
For Brown, that’s not much of a concern. In fact, he’s bought into the idea himself. “You’ve got to trust the process. They’re trying to build a winning culture here, and that’s one way to do it. You’ve just got to trust it, keep your nose to the work, and keep going.”
The two will have close eyes but on them throughout the summer and into training camp, and get extensive ice time come the pre-season. Beyond that, there isn’t a guarantee, and at the end of the day, that might not be the worst thing in the world.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com