The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to make news and stir rumors even without playing regular-season hockey games. In today’s news and rumors post, I’ll share about a young Swedish prospect whose role model is the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner and who hockey commentators suggest, in fact, plays a game similar to Marner’s. That young Swedish prospect is Lucas Raymond.
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As well, the Maple Leafs coaching staff will include a different face after this season. Paul McFarland, whose eyes are set on becoming an NHL head coach, will leave the team’s coaching staff for a position in the OHL as a head coach.
Finally, I’ll share parts of a great interview between Sportsnet’s Luke Fox and former Maple Leafs star Doug Gilmour where Gilmour shares some of the differences he sees in the game now and the game he played 30 years ago.
Item One: Can Lucas Raymond Become the Swedish Mitch Marner?
In an article earlier this week, TSN’s Mark Masters interviewed young Swedish prospect Lucas Raymond. Masters believes Raymond has the potential to develop into “the Swedish Marner,” which has to pique the interest of Maple Leafs fans. As Masters hints, although we’re currently unsure about Raymond’s NHL skill level, we’re pretty sure he has good taste in his role models.
Specifically, the 18-year-old Raymond noted: “I’d say I’m a mix between Mitch Marner and Artemi Panarin. I really like watching those two play.”
Raymond, further spoke about Marner: “I just like his playing style and the way he attacks the net. He’s creative with the puck, having different opportunities to score whether it’s shooting or passing. I just like his game, the way that he plays all around.”
That’s a daring comparison and good company if you can keep it; however, the young Frolunda winger, who’s projected to become a top pick in the coming draft, has outside support for his assessment from hockey insiders who’ve been good judges of talent. In fact, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button suggests Raymond’s skill-set sparks thoughts of Marner.
How will that translate into draft position for Raymond? Marner was chosen fourth overall in the 2015 draft. Raymond, who’s 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, was projected at No. 9 on Button’s list of prospects. As Masters noted in his article, Raymond landed No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting’s list of European skaters.
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Last season, Raymond played against much older men in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and, in limited minutes, scored 4 goals and 6 assists in 33 games. He also scored 14 points in 9 games with Frolunda’s junior team.
Raymond’s focus moving forward is to shoot more, which is something Marner also noted when he was younger. Raymond admits, “I can sometimes look for passes and miss a shot opportunity and I think at the next level up you don’t have the same time and space.”
It will be fun for NHL fans to see where Raymond lands as a draft choice and, over the seasons, if he can progress like Marner did – who has arguably become one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL.
Item Two: Maple Leafs’ Paul McFarland Named Head Coach of the Kingston Frontenacs
The Maple Leafs will soon be hiring a new assistant coach, and that will happen as soon as the 2019-20 season has ended – one way or another. Paul McFarland is leaving the team. This week he accepted the job as head coach with the Kingston Frontenacs.
The 34-year-old McFarland had been the head coach of the Frontenacs for three seasons prior to becoming an NHL assistant for the last three seasons. He’s an up-and-comer who’s projected to hit the NHL coaching ranks sometime soon. In two seasons with the Florida Panthers and one with the Maple Leafs, he oversaw the power play unit and gained a reputation as an innovative offensive coach.
In truth, it might seem that returning to the OHL would be moving backward; however, my speculation is that he left the Panthers to join the Maple Leafs because former coach Mike Babcock was in charge and he saw a possible opportunity when Babcock left. However, when Sheldon Keefe was hired as Babcock’s replacement, McFarland realized the Maple Leafs organization was a dead-end for him.
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Obviously, current Maple Leafs head coach Keefe totally understands McFarland’s decision. He was there himself and made a similar choice to stay as the Marlies head coach not so long ago instead of taking an NHL assistant coaching position in another organization.
Keefe explained, “Paul has been a great member of our staff and I look forward to continuing our work together through to the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. Normally this type of move would be done during the off-season, but given that these are far from normal circumstances, we are in full support of Paul’s desire to pursue this position in Kingston and gain more experience as a head coach.”
With the Frontenacs, McFarland will coach one of the next great prospects in Shane Wright who played with Kingston last season as a 15-year-old on an “exceptional status.” Wright is projected to be the potential first-overall draft choice in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Wright, currently a 16-year-old center, scored 39 goals and 66 points in just 58 games even though he was several years younger than the players he faced.
By the way, for anyone interested where the Frontenacs’ name comes from, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau was Governor General of colonial New France and built a number of forts on the Great Lakes. One of those forts – Fort Frontenac – became Kingston, Ontario.
Item Three: Doug Gilmour Discusses the NHL Now and Then
On May 8, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox shared an interview with former Maple Leafs star Doug Gilmour. It’s an interesting article; in it, Gilmour and Fox speak about a number of topics. I encourage Maple Leafs fans to read it.
In this post, I’ll only share a small part of that interview. Interestingly, during a break from regular-season sportscasts, Gilmour has been doing something he hadn’t done before and that’s watching film of his Hall of Fame career almost 30 years later.
As the now-56-year-old center viewed his own gritty play for the first time, he was struck with the differences between hockey then and hockey now. “More whistles. Less speed. More chip-ins. Less possession.”
Gilmour loved how aggressive the game was 30 years ago. “You had to compete,” he declared.
Gilmour named Brian Sutter, who was his roommate and the team captain for five years in St. Louis, as “probably the most intense guy I’ve ever played with. He taught me how to compete. Yeah, you take the game home with you sometimes. You take losing home sometimes. But you just had that gut feeling (especially in the playoffs), ‘This is something special.’”
Gilmour admitted that he “lived for that… It was so much fun. Good times, bad times, but to me, it was the best hockey.”
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Gilmour also admitted that, after watching the classic rerun games, the rules had changed. He noted that, “Back in the days, playoffs were like Hudson Bay rules – anything goes. That excitement. That adrenaline when you get onto the ice and that first game starts.”
What’s Next with the Maple Leafs?
This morning there was a rumor that, if the regular season continues, Maple Leafs fans won’t be able to watch the team play live. However, there are also rumors that Toronto might be chosen as a “hub city” for resuming play and that the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment has made an offer to the NHL towards that end.
That topic will be something to keep an eye on over the next few days.