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Long Range Prospects Prominent In Traverse City; Thoughts On Babcock

September 18, 2023, 6:11 PM ET [160 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs overall had to be encouraged by the performance of their prospects over the three games at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, bouncing back from a 7-3 loss to Columbus with a 5-1 win over Dallas and finishing up with a 6-5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Only one of the prospects playing in Traverse City in Matthew Knies is likely to be on the Leafs roster when the season starts on October 11, but over the three games, a number of the club’s longer-range prospects performed well and gave the organization hope that some players will be able to step forth over the next couple years to fill NHL spots.

2023 Leafs first-rounder Easton Cowan had six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in the tournament, continuing the growth that he showed for London in the second half and the OHL Playoffs, while 2022 top pick Fraser Minten had a goal and four assists in three games.



Toronto got impressive performances out of a pair of seventh-rounders in Brandon Lisowsky and Ryan Tverberg. Lisowsky scored a hat trick in the win over the Wings and led the club with four goals in the tournament, while the Toronto native Tverberg had four assists. The most consistent defender was Mikko Kokkonen, who is looking to bounce back after splitting time between the Marlies and Newfoundland last season.



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The events of the weekend that unfolded in Columbus, with former Leafs head coach Mike Babcock resigning in disgrace after pulling some of the same shenanigans that alienated him from his players in Detroit and Toronto, are a sure sign that those antics are no longer acceptable in the NHL.

It is quite a departure from eight years ago when the Stanley Cup winner was looked upon as a savior in Toronto after years in the wilderness. Babcock brought the Leafs back to respectability but with the weight of an eight-year, $50 million contract, team president Brendan Shanahan knew it was necessary to bring in a heavy hitter in Lou Lamoriello to keep him in check. During their tenure, he pushed the veteran GM to make moves that were counterproductive (trades for Brian Boyle and Tomas Plekanec, the signing of Patrick Marleau) to the club’s future, but that was insignificant compared to what he did to young players like Mitch Marner six or seven years ago.

It is the same thing that attempted to do to the young Blue Jackets players by asking to look at their phones. For all the talk of Babcock changing, it was only a matter of time before he fell back on using his outdated and unacceptable methods.

In the end, Babcock has been exposed for being what he has always been….a bully. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, his tactics would have been overlooked as the price you pay to win, but thankfully the NHL has evolved and he hopefully will never be behind an NHL bench again.
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