Babcock: Mitch Marner’s chances of making Leafs ‘real good’

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Mike Babcock spoke with TSN during the second intermission of today’s World Junior Showcase game between Canada and Sweden. The topic of interest was Mitch Marner, and the things he had to say about the 19-year-old Leafs prospect were overwhelmingly positive.

While this is Marner’s first game of the showcase, his future bench boss liked what he saw in his preparation. “I thought he was magical yesterday in practice, the one powerplay here tonight, he made one four plays that could’ve easily been goals,” said Babcock. “I really like his attention to detail without the puck. How he knocks down pucks, how the puck always comes to him. He loves the game, his body language shows that… I think he’s a real good Leaf for a long time to come.”

Babcock also had a lot of praise for the Thornhill native’s NHL summer. “Mitch has been working with our guys, and really training hard. He’s eating right, and he’s doing everything he can to get stronger.” said the Leafs’ head coach, while brushing off assumptions that getting in shape is code for ‘bulking up’. “To say that Mitch has got to put on a bunch of weight to me is ridiculous. All you’ve gotta do is get stronger.”

When asked about his odds of making the team, Babcock sounded optimistic. “You are who you are, so be the best Mitch you can possibly be. He’s got a lot of summer here left, and he’s got to keep working at it, but he’ll have a real good chance to make the Leafs.”

The fact that the Leafs are also expected to integrate 2016 #1 overall pick Auston Matthews and 2014 first-round pick William Nylander into the roster has left many wondering if there’s room for them all to play, especially on a team laced with veterans. Babcock suggested that will be no issue, so long as they deserve the spot. “They have to decide it themselves, it’s not up to me,” Babcock said. “But when I go through it, we’ve got some good men, we’ve acquired some good men, and we have good people in our leadership group. I think we can handle some kids.”

“Obviously, we had a lot of them last year, having a few more of them this year, especially high-end ones won’t hurt us.”

Marner also spoke with the broadcasting giant and said that while Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello’s presence are noticed, he’s doing his best to tune that distraction out. “I just have to go out and not think about it,” Marner said. “I just go out here and play my game like I’ve been doing all year, have fun with the puck, and just try to do as much as I can defensively and offensively.”

While Marner will do his best to make sure that there’s a spot saved for him on this team, it seems like he’ll have NHL games to worry about instead come December.

    • Stan Smith

      I suspect Marner and Matthews might be split up to balance the lines. They are both 200 ft players. Although Marner would benefit from having a scoring centre.

      In the future I could see Matthews-Nylander on a line to compliment playing styles and Marner-JVR.

      Komarov could still fit with the former as a net presence and corners guy and Kadri could centre the latter – using current roster players for my theory of course.

  • BarelyComments

    Does it make sense to use the 2 week conditioning stint directly at the start of the season for Marner? If they’re hoping for him to stick with the Leafs for the entire season why not let him warm up for a couple games in the A and then bring him up when the inevitable first injury happens…. Also lets Babs focus on Auston and Nylander for that time…

      • Gary Empey

        I think conditioning loans are an exception.

        In the 2014-15 season Bo Horvat was hurt in training camp and started the season on the injured list, then when he was ready to return the Canucks assigned him to Utica on a conditioning loan, permitted despite the fact he was still 19, had been drafted from the CHL and had not completed 4 seasons of major junior play.

        Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, a player assigned to the AHL on a conditioning loan remains on the NHL team’s active roster (definition of “active roster” in Article 1) and gets paid his full NHL salary and benefits (Article 13.8).

    • You can’t really make up a conditioning stint out of thin air, though; has to have a reason for it.

      The Leafs almost got in trouble for Corrado and that was a guy who had barely played for months and was coming off of an injury. Unless you want him to fake a sprain during the last exhibition game of the year, this isn’t a likely scenario.

  • Stan Smith

    The only reason there is even any conversation about returning Marner to Juniors is he is not a number one pick. You don’t read anyone questioning whether Matthews should stay with the Leafs. To me Marner played like a number one pick last year, completely dominating in regular season and playoffs. Even despite his size he should be a lock to make the team.

  • Stan Smith

    I think that the question “will Marner make the Leafs” is being over debated. The fact of the matter is that Coach Babcock will, in all likelihood , play his BEST players. We fans will have to wait until the coach makes his selection. Then, we. Have the option of agreeing or disagreeing.