How has an organizational shift changed the Leafs prospect camp?


When an organization like the Leafs undergoes a major overhaul from top to bottom, there are big headlines that come with it. The hiring of future management superstar Kyle Dubas. The hiring of one of the best coaches in hockey. Having an exceptional, potentially franchise-altering draft. Trading your best player to change the culture. 

Those are the things that create good PR, that signal to most fans that change is occurring, and it’s for the better. But franchise and culture shock doesn’t stop there. It continues throughout every facet of the organization. 
This week, the Leafs started their annual prospect camp. With it comes a tremendous amount of excitement. The future looks really bright in Toronto, with William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen headlining one of the most talented prospect pools in the league. A rarity for the Leafs. 


While prospects may be stealing the headlines right now, it’s one of the more under-the-radar moves of the offseason that plays the most crucial role at these camps.
On June 5th, Scott Pellerin was promoted to Director of Player Development. The importance of this can’t be stated enough – you can draft all the talent you want, but it’s only as good as how you develop it. That’s why the methodology behind camp needed to shift as well. 
In his chat with the media today, Pellerin outlined how the Leafs are using the prospect camp, and it is refreshing to hear. 
It’s July, we’re not here to evaluate guys, we’re here to help them learn how to be a pro. We want to share. All the ice stuff is a bonus. We’re teaching them how to lift, we’re teaching them how to eat, we’re teaching them how to talk to you guys, we’re teaching them how to be a pro.
Lifting, eating, and talking to media – three things that Phil Kessel wasn’t exactly known for. Hearing Pellerin talk about this seems to make it even more clear that Phil didn’t fit the criteria that the Leafs are looking for in their current and future pros – a criteria that Mike Babcock has also mentioned in interviews since behind hired. In fact, not only has Babcock talked about it, but Kyle Dubas talked about it when meeting the media today as well.

Pellerin isn’t just designing a program that helps these prospects become pros off-the-ice, but on it as well. 
We’ve had some communication obviously with Mike Babcock with what he wants, what style of player he wants and we’ve designed this camp to bring out that performance in these players. That’s why we’re doing it.
Whether rightly or wrongly, the Leafs are obviously treating Babcock’s word as gospel. Whether that will haunt them in the long-run remains to be seen, but it’s hard to argue against an organization being completely in sync from top to bottom. 
Pellerin also reiterated the importance of patience from both the organization and the prospects, and mentioned that Peter Holland – who seems to have taken a leadership role this offseason with his community involvement – was brought in by Babcock to talk to the prospects.
Yesterday we talked and Peter Holland happened to be working out upstairs and Mike Babcock grabbed him. You look at guys, they have different timelines, there’s different development in the process. Some guys are going to be faster than others, some guys it’ll take them five years.
This organization is developing an identity. It started with the hiring of Kyle Dubas. It continued with the hiring of Mike Babcock. And it will proceed into the future with the work done by Scott Pellerin and these prospects. 
  • SEER

    Good little article, Bobby C…. I really agree with the part about Dubas being a future GM.., as I believe we will see a lot of fruition from his signings in the last year, very soon… He’s know up North, as “Young Einstein”…

    I also think that with the load of Swedes we have acquired.., that it’s possible that Mats might be working part-time over there as a scout for us..?

    With that segway… I want to invite everyone to grab a large cup of tea (or whatever you like to drink).. and you can pretend you are watching a half-hour tv show without the commercials…, as after having many people request a Sundin video from me in the last year, I sat down and spent the whole day today editing through 90 minutes… and could only manage to cut it down to 20 minutes…

    Some you hate him.., while others love him.., but I bet most will enjoy the pace of this video..

    LOTSA MATS: MATS SUNDIN TRIBUTE

    –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTwSbekv8b4

  • Kanuunankuula

    I am really liking Pistol Pete being involved so much this summer. Reilly seems to be doing a lot as well. Don’t mind having those two taking on leadership roles. Even Percy made an appearance at the kids’ camp.

  • Kanuunankuula

    I agree with you that 340 slogan seems to be a shot at Kessel who as you mention was known to be a bit lazy and lax in his off season preparation. But it concerns me how this team has struggled with culture for so long. From changing GMs to coaches (which is still ongoing) and now to jettisoning their most skilled and talented player in favour of “training hard”.

    “Training hard” in other years could be replaced by “pugnacity and belligerence” or “feeding the chickens” or “just breathe” or “burn the boats”. If this new working hard slogan does not work, then I’m sure they will find another slogan next year that we can get all excited about.

    That’s why I’m not as impressed with the off season.
    I think it is a bit optimistic to this a franchise altering draft. By PCS the leafs are average to below average though they have one outstanding talent player 4th overall. I’m not overly negative here as I’m happy with the changes the leafs have made but outside of signing babcock, every other move they have done cannot be quantified as much different from average. That said, it is easy to write colourful words about how miraculous the rebuild is going but lets not get our hopes built up too high.

    • MatsSundin#13

      The old management was focussed on the importance of leadership and grit over skill and scoring goals but then they traded for and played kessel.

      This new management appears to say the right things by drafting skill but then trades kessel but the emphasis on culture change ahead of “skill” is concerning.

      Please tell me they don’t believe the nonsense that training harder, managing the media and grit and leadership are more important then scoring goals?

      Train Hard 2015 = Compete 2014

    • MatsSundin#13

      You mention outside of hiring Babcock the Leafs have not done much? What about trading Kessel? What about piling up draft picks rather than trading them for personnel for the Leafs? What about actually having a full compliment of prospects and taking the time to develop them rather than short-cutting the process(Hello Burke and the Kessel trade). This management group is practicing what it is preaching, patience and development, two courses of action that have been sadly missing in this organization for a long long time.

      • SEER

        I didn’t mean they haven’t done much full stop.

        What I mean is outside of the Babcock hiring they haven’t done much beyond what I would call above average or better then medicore. For your points,

        – They traded kessel and got an “average return”

        – They stockpiled draft picks but again PCS shows the expected results of their picks are “average” for where they picked.

        – Development of players is ideal but to be fair Burke talked about developing players ala keeping Kadri in AHL after the Schenn disappointment. And it was not like players under Burke and Nono were rushed into the NHL. Guys like Biggs, Devane and Ross who were in a development model struggled for other reasons but not “development” strictly speaking. Even Holland was not played as much as he could have been. Again, this talk is all good in theory but we need results to say the leaf development will be anything more then what an average NHL team can do.

        Again, I see no evidence to suggest what they are doing will be anything better then average. They maybe better then Burke and Nono whose results were worse then average and outside of the playoff more then in during their tenure. And like I said if the team is average under Shanny that will be an improvement but hardly what I call a success.

        And keep in mind, Burke and Nono preached patience and development and so does Shanny. The key is do they consistently follow through like for example when Shanny says we will be patient and not give away our elite players for nothing? That is one example where I don’t think they are following the desired template but do allow me to continue to hold onto my skepticism until they both follow a smart process and achieve results to substantiate.

        • MatsSundin#13

          Sorry, I may have a brain cramp, but what is PCS?

          As to your Kessel getting average return, that would be correct, but part of the plan was to get a guy out of the room that did not show what Babcock and Shanahan wanted from an elite player. Now I admit I was not in the room, but yesterday Colby Armstrong said about as much and he was in the room with Kessel. Burke and Nonis did not draft for skill alone, they wanted big and truculent and that did not get them anywhere. Burke imo did hit a homerun with Morgan Reilly, he called him the best player in the draft and he may have been correct in that. For the Leafs to get Korostelev in the 7th round was just crazy considering where he was projected, so yes I think that the draft was a huge success. This is the first time in like eons that the Leafs have preached a line and followed the line preached.

          • Kanuunankuula

            “PCS% metrics, which measures a prospect’s historical likelihood of reaching 200 NHL games played.”

            RealisticLeafFan If you’ve read the articles here on the new prospects, they’ve stated that PCS’s effectiveness on players outside the CHL is very limited. So I’m not really worried about our draft being “average or below”.

    • SEER

      One thing to consider when looking at PCS for our new prospects is that it takes many years of data into account. 10+ years ago, the nhl was a different place and smaller players were at a disadvantage compared with today’s nhl. This means less small players made it to the nhl in those days, which would decrease the PCS if smaller players. So the PCS numbers for leafs prospects may be a bit understated because many of them are undersized.

  • MatsSundin#13

    Thank you Seer!!!! I can’t wait to watch and enjoy the montage of Mats. Also, I definitely agree with you guys because Holland and Rielly were both at the Sick Kids Gala and I predict that Holland could possibly wear the ‘A’ this year or be a Captain for us down the road – he’s going to have a breakout season I have a hunch.

    • Kanuunankuula

      I hope you inkling is right! When we traded for Holland as was hoping he would have a 2C upside, but it never seemed to happen, although he wasn’t given much of a fair shake (like most of our skilled players) under the old regime.

  • SEER

    All you people quoting PCS% as proof as to whether or not we had a good or bad draft need to take a step back and look at what PCS% is.

    It is not even CLOSE to a reliable tool to determine ANYTHING. All it’s showing is comparable players (in terms of size, points, and league) and their success rates in the NHL. Like Kapanen said, Kessel is Kessel and Kapanen is Kapanen, you can’t compare Apples to Oranges.

    When you see that PCS shows Dermott as having Drew Doughty as a comparable as well as Tim Gleason you can tell that it really doesn’t mean much. It’s pretty much just size, points, and league, and people who had similar numbers in the history of the league. It says nothing about how they drive play, how they train, how they skate, how often they take the body, whether they use their stick well defensively, if they are a high volume shooter or high percentage shooter, etc. it’s, in my opinion, virtually useless in evaluating a player.

    Come back in 3-5 years and then we can start discussing how we did this draft.

  • SEER

    @MatsSundin#13

    http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/124643/2010-nhl-draft-toronto-maple-leafs-fail-improve-flurry-trades/

    That was done in June, and, shows you how poorly they’ve drafted INSIDE North America.

    If you look back at all the Europeans we’ve drafted in the past 13 years, it’s actually a fairly good track record, which is why Thommie Bergman was kept on the scouting staff probably. Problem is we gave up on people too early for the most part.

    Rask (1st round), Stralman (7th), Tlusty (1st), Gunnarson (7th), Komarov (6th), Stalberg(6th), Kulemin (2nd).

    Johnson, and Loov are 7th rounders who are looking like they have a CHANCE of making the NHL, Granberg has a chance as well as a 4th rounder.

    We’ve had success with our euro draftees, but management has given up on them too soon. Our North American drafting has been relatively dreadful though, which is again, probably why they purged the scouting staff.

  • MacTwoTimes

    So after one draft (and one Kessel trade), the Leafs went from having one of the worst farm systems in the NHL to “one of the most talented prospect pools in the league”? Drinking too much of the Shanahan koolaid, are we?