View Full Version : Leaf's player development - sitting down with Hughes

06-26-2014, 09:43 AM
Not sure if it's been posted elsewhere already but this deserves its own thread imo. Siegel had a chance to sit down with Hughes and did a very detailed interview talking about the development system, and specific prospects too.

It's all here (http://www.tsn.ca/toronto/blogs/jonas_siegel/?id=455666).

And here are some extracts from it ...

We don't have a sense of urgency with a kid at an early stage, but as he develops into year two, into year three, we turn the heat up, we turn the urgency up. A guy like Freddy Gauthier for instance; last year, we let him work through some stuff. We give him the details of what he needs to do to be successful in terms of making the World Junior team. We give him some bullet point details in terms of being physical, stopping on loose pucks, blocking shots, winning faceoffs, playing with some urgency. We give him some details in terms of what he needs to do in year one. In year two, our demands will be a lot greater. We'll be pressing the button a little bit harder. We'll be trying to push him up the mountain, challenging him, both mentally and physically. We try to expedite the process, all the while knowing that there's got to be some patience in the mix as well.

SIEGEL: But is there an added element in Toronto? I wanted to ask you specifically in the case of Nazem. Nazem comes up, there's all this hype; it's Toronto at its finest. How do you navigate through those waters when there's so many external factors outside of your control pulling the kid in different directions?

HUGHES: Nazem was more patience. And it's almost a trial by error. It's almost one step forward, maybe one step back, two steps forward and it was a process of two, three years. It was a maturity thing. It wasn't a lack of passion. It wasn't a 'you've got to work on your skill-sets'. It wasn't about 'hey, does Nazem love the game?' We already knew that. That was more of the personality and just talking him through things and trying to nurture him and trying to get him to see things maybe differently than the way he's living or doing on the ice. That was a tedious one. Some guys move up the ladder a little bit faster. A guy like Josh Leivo we drafted at 178 pounds and he's a dog on the bone. And we said 'son, you've got an NHL stick, you've got soft hands, you've got an NHL brain, but you're weak as [expletive]'. And he went to work. He got in the MCC and he went from 178 [pounds] to 198 [pounds] and he's chiseled and strong. And he did that work. He did the work. He's responsible for the work. We just gave him the information and said 'this is what's in front of you and this is what you need to do' and he did it.
So Hughes was saying with Kadri the challenge was to nurture him and mature with him, because he was an immature kid who has all the skills and all the passion for the game.

It is good to hear Leivo, other than not having an NHL body (which he does now), had the skill and the vision and the attitude.

I can give you an example of a guy that's got a workload that's intense and he's got a passion level that's intense is Connor Brown. I just spoke to him earlier today. His weight is moving in the right direction. He was with [strength coach Anthony] Belza this morning, him and five other players were at the MCC this morning. He's putting weight on and it's man-strength that we call it and it's just going to take time. ... he's got the workload, he's got the passion, he's got the dedication, the desire ... He's a late bloomer and in a lot of ways we've just got to understand that this kid is doing everything in his power. ... It's going to take some time, but we know that the process is moving in the right direction. He's probably a perfect example of a kid that I don't think we can speed it up anymore. It's human nature. He's going from a skinny, scrawny kid to becoming a man.Translated, don't expect Connor Brown in the NHL anytime soon.

And on Ashton ...

HUGHES: More touches; exposure to the power-play; playing with high-end players at the American League level which is going to slow his brain down when he has the puck. .... It's not a dump-and-chase, get it out, get it in; they're forced to make plays. So just that experience and having that puck-time is part of the maturation for Carter in terms of moving himself from an American League player to a National League player. He's probably stuck between the two leagues right now because he's got some really good qualities; he cares about his teammates; he's physical; he can skate; he can get up and down the rink; he's got a high-compete load. And he's just got to find that balance of not losing the aggressiveness, but learning how to slow it down when he has the puck a little bit. It's training your mind, slowing it down in your brain is basically that attachment that he's learning to do right now. Because he made some beautiful plays at the American League level this year, now he's just got to take it and bring it into the National League with him. Which is about in-line with what everybody here can see as well. Ashton plays a really simple and almost dumb game at the NHL, that is a safe game, but it's not an effective game. He's been a much better player in the AHL and more creative offensively. It's a matter of taking things up to the NHL speed and still being able to think the game and make decisions at NHL speed.

And on Percy

Stuart Percy is a great example of playing 20 minutes per night, playing in all situations playing on the power-play, playing on the penalty kill playing in almost 20 playoff games and that experience is invaluable; you've got to earn the right to play in those games. And so our American League coaches are giving these guys every opportunity to earn the right to win positions and to be on the ice in critical situations. Stuart's a perfect example of that. [Petter] Granberg was a big piece of that puzzle as well. We're talking about the player development and nurturing them through their junior careers or college careers and then we work with them through the summers and then Spotter and his crew grab them in the winter and expose them to situations and get them the quality minutes in the right situations. And again, that's how you expedite the process and that's how we're trying to get as many guys to graduate from the American League to the NHL. It is true that Granberg and Percy were major pieces of the Marlies team especially in their playoff run, which unfortunately stopped short of the Calder Cup final, but at least Percy and Granberg were playing all the key minutes.

Finally when asked who are the prospects he expects to be a force in the NHL in the future, he mentioned the usual suspects - Finn, Percy, Granberg, Brown. He also mention Nilsson and Johnson who I have not heard as much of.

Not a bad read for off-season.

06-26-2014, 09:51 AM
Interesting that he says Granberg is ready. I guess they are penciling him in.

I was also listening to Poulin on TSN earlier and he was saying how they like the development curve of a guy getting a taste in the NHL and going back to the A and being a better player and then increasing that each season. He specifically pointed to guys like D'Amigo (who played 22 games in the NHL last season) and Leivo (7), and said those guys will likely get more playing time with the Leafs this year, and some of these other prospects will get chances at some point in the year.

We knew D'Amigo would be a factor this year but it looks like they think Leivo could be in the mix for the Leafs roster, if not in the fall, at some point in the year like Pearson and Toffolli in LA.

06-26-2014, 09:54 AM
They were very high on Granberg even last summer, they said he had an outside chance of playing in the NHL even last year at the training camp.

Having seen him play in the AHL, I would think he's at least still 1 AHL season away.

06-26-2014, 11:47 PM
That is a remarkably candid interview.

06-27-2014, 09:27 AM
Yup, and very detailed interview too.

And for guys that he didn't even mention, you know where they fit - Biggs, Ross, Brennan, Holzer, Sparks etc ... no mentioning of them at all and that tells you something.