With Brodie's help, Leafs' Dermott believes he has the right stuff
TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who skated in two groups at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
Travis Dermott is looking to show the Leafs he has the right stuff to play the right side. The 24-year-old, left-shooting defenceman has played on the right at times during his four NHL seasons, but now may need to take up permanent residence on his weak side.
"It's a bunch of little things," Dermott said of the adjustment. "I'm always on my one-time side on the offensive blue line and breaking out the puck, the puck's in the middle of the ice now instead of the wall. So, just little ways you have to approach it differently, but it's the same game.
"I learned a lot from watching Brods last year. If I get the full-season role, I don't think it'd be too much for me."
Brods would be T.J. Brodie, who has turned playing the right as a lefty into an art form.
"You see guys coming in on him off the rush and it looks like they have him wide and then he brings that stick out of nowhere and gets it almost every time and us on the bench are chuckling," Dermott said.
Brodie says playing his off side actually helps with those type of plays.
"I find on the strong side, when you try and get it your elbow locks out so it's a little bit easier on the off side because you can get that bend and get your stick in a little bit easier," Brodie noted. "It's definitely teachable."
Dermott looks like he'll get some runway to learn. After Zach Bogosian departed in free agency, the team is thin on the right side with 22-year-old Timothy Liljegren next on the depth chart, but still unproven.
Dermott has skated alongside Morgan Rielly so far at camp. Sheldon Keefe has opted to pair his veteran blue liners with younger guys to start.
"It should give them confidence going in knowing that they have a veteran to lean on and talk to," the coach explained. "We are just hoping that all of our young players will get a little bit of a jolt from that."
"Even from before I was with the team, Mo was a big guy I watched and wanted to be like," gushed Dermott. "Playing with him now, six, seven years ago I wouldn't have dreamt it. He's really helping me out."
What does Dermott notice when he's around Rielly?
"His confidence in his own play," the Newmarket, Ont. native said. "He has such good feet. Even without the puck, he's always moving his feet and that's something I can definitely learn from."
Other notable combinations at camp include Jake Muzzin with Liljegren, Brodie with Rasmus Sandin and Justin Holl, the only right-shooting defenceman protected to be in the top six, skating with Carl Dahlstrom.
Dermott averaged 13 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time last season, but should get additional shifts this year as he takes on some of Bogosian's penalty-kill role.
"You want to get the skills built up, but you aren't going to use your skills unless you have confidence," Dermott said. "It's not a fast thing. You can't just flip on a light switch and have confidence. It's something that you grow over a long period of time, season after season, learning from new guys that come to the team, guys that have been here for a while as staples, and you just build the confidence. I don't think you'll ever have 100 per cent confidence, but you just try to add every season and get more comfortable in your shoes and then it shows on the ice."
On Saturday night, John Tavares will see his first game action since suffering a concussion and knee sprain courtesy a scary collision in the playoffs. The Leafs captain will play on a line with newcomer Michael Bunting.
"I see a lot of similarities with Matt Moulson just with the tenacity and drive to find a way to contribute and make a difference when he's out there whether that's with the puck or without the puck," Tavares said. "He has a really good nose for the net, kind of always around it, always on the puck, seems to have it a lot, has a good understanding of the game and the people around him and how to distribute or understand spacing and the flow and how to capitalize and get open and create opportunities."
On his other wing, Tavares will have Josh Ho-Sang, who's in camp on a pro tryout. The pair were previously teammates with the Islanders.
"He seems a little more comfortable in his skin," Tavares observed. "Obviously, he has a better understanding of how things go at this level and the structure and the day-to-day ... He's matured on and off the ice and is excited about the opportunity."
"We've clearly given him a great opportunity," Keefe said. "We're looking to see what he can do with that. There's a number of other players who would love to be playing in that spot tonight, but we wanted to give him a legitimate crack at this. We believe in his skill-set."
The Leafs will play in front of around 9,500 fans tonight after provincial health authorities increased the capacity to 50 per cent at indoor venues. It will be the second time the Leafs have hosted fans since the pandemic began. The team welcomed 550 vaccinated health-care workers to watch the Game 7 loss against Montreal in May.
"Being from here and watching the Leafs play my whole life, it wasn’t the same last last year without the fans," said Wayne Simmonds, the pride of Scarborough, Ont. "We had the artificial crowd noise, which was more annoying than not so I'm pretty excited to finally play in front of some real Torontonians."
The heart-and-soul winger, who likes to get fans going with big hits and the occasional fight, didn't care much for the fake noise last season.
"I feel like the puck would get dumped in the corner and you’d hear something go off and it just wasn’t at the right time all the time," he said shaking his head.
Alex Kerfoot will play on a line with Ilya Mikheyev and William Nylander tonight. There was a moment this summer when he thought his time playing in Toronto may be done. The day before Seattle's expansion draft, a video surfaced online showing the Kraken picking Kerfoot.
"Pretty much everyone in my phone contact sent me that video so it was, obviously, a day of emotions," Kerfoot said. "I didn’t know what to think and then people assured me it wasn't anything real so I just went about my business and then found out the next day I'd stay a Leaf."
General manager Kyle Dubas gave Kerfoot a call after the Kraken informed the Leafs that they would be picking Jared McCann.
"This organization is really good about communicating so I had an idea about what was going on and I knew I couldn't control anything," Kerfoot said. "Hoping I was going to be back and very fortunate to be back."
Left winger Nick Robertson will be playing for the first time since getting ejected due to a high cross-check in the final game of the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
"I got a little carried away," Robertson said with a sheepish smile. "I was a little frustrated, because the whole tournament everyone was running around and it got the best of me. I don't think you'll see something like that again. I apologized to the guys. It's something I never really do and it cost the guys. I said, 'It's my bad.' It is what it is. I'll never do that again."
Robertson is in an uphill battle to earn a job at Leafs camp. He'll play tonight on a line with Jason Spezza and Michael Amadio. Spezza has become a valuable resource for Robertson, who turned 20 earlier this month.
"Any questions I have, he's the guy to go to," Robertson said. "Even just playing with him, drills or whatever, he's my go-to guy with questions."
Spezza's latest advice: use your linemates more.
"You get a little nervous and want to force things," Robertson admitted. "This year I have more confidence in myself and my playmaking ability and hopefully in these exhibition games I can show that to the organization and go from there."
Petr Mrazek unveiled a new mask at practice on Saturday. The chrome design features former agent Miroslav Frycer on the left side.
"He was always telling me how much he enjoyed playing here [from 1981-88] and he sadly passed away in the spring so that was an easy decision," Mrazek said. "He was the guy who found me and gave me the opportunity to practise with my hometown pro team. I was 15 years old when he gave me the chance to be in the locker room with the guys and practise every day."
Jiri Crha, another Czech native who played goalie for the Leafs (1979-81), is featured on the other side of the mask.
"To be honest, I didn't expect it to be as shiny, but guys on the ice liked it," Mrazek said. "They said, 'It's cool.'"
Mrazek is also standing out because of his pads. He's been alternating between a blue design and white design at camp. He plans on wearing the blue ones at home games when the team wears its blue sweater and the white ones on the road when the team will be in white sweaters.
"It looks good," he said. "It's all about feeling good on the ice."
Last season with Carolina, Mrazek rotated between red, black and white pads depending on what sweater the team was wearing.
"If I could, I would have new gear every game so I like switching," he said. "When I was younger the gear was heavy and you had to break it in, but these days it's so soft."
Lines at Leafs skates on Saturday:
Playing tonight against Montreal
Power play units
Robertson - Ho-Sang - Nylander
Amadio - Bunting - Spezza
Expected to play on Monday in Montreal
Power play units
Brooks - Marner - Kase
Gusev - Abramov - Gogolev
Absent: Matthews, Steeves, Engvall, Woll