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I’ll also share a story that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas shared about what he learned from his grandfather who was a coach at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and how important it is to have the right guy behind the bench.
First point: Joe Thornton is on his way from Switzerland to Canada
Yesterday Chris Johnston reported that Joe Thornton had finished his stay in Switzerland and was playing for HC Davos and is now on his way to Toronto to prepare for the opening of training camp. For those Maple Leafs fans who may not know it, in 2004-05 a young Thornton traveled to Switzerland to play during the NHL lockout. While he was there he met his wife. Now his family lives in Davos during the NHL offseason.
In that 2004-05 season, Thornton, now 41, played 40 games for Davos and helped his team win the Swiss championship. He also played there during the 2012-13 lockout and now lives there every offseason. During his time at Davos this season, Thornton has scored five goals and 11 points in 12 games. Currently, Thornton appears to be named as the Maple Leafs third row center for the 2020-2021 season.
Point Two: Six Maple Leafs Prospects at World Junior Tournament
While Nick Robertson will miss the upcoming World Junior Championships (WJCs) which start in Edmonton on Christmas Day, that doesn’t mean Maple Leafs fans shouldn’t be watching the games on TV. If they log in, they’ll have the opportunity to take a look at six of the organization’s prospects that will fit up there.
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The Russian team eats three Maple Leafs prospects – Rodion Amirov, Mikhail Abramov and goaltender Artur Akhtyamov. The Maple Leafs drafted left winger Amirov, 6 feet, 167 pounds in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft (15e global). He will likely play a key role with the Russia squad in the WJC.
Mikhail Abramov is a 19-year-old, 6-foot, 185-pound center who was drafted in the fourth round (115th overall) of the 2019 draft. He played with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMHL and scored four goals and 10 assists in nine games this season. Finally, goalkeeper Artur Akhtyamov was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. He played as a substitute goalie in the KHL this season with Kazan Ak-Bars.
The Finland team will have three Maple Leafs prospects in their roster. Mikko Kokkonen is a 5-10, 190-pound defenseman drafted in the third round (84e overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft. He plays with Jukurit Mikkeli of the SM-liiga this season.
Topi Niemela is a 5-foot-11, 156-pound defenseman who was drafted in the third round (64e overall) in the 2020 draft. He plays with Karpat from SM-liiga this season. Finally, Roni Hirvonen is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound center drafted in the second round (59e global) of this year’s project. He plays with Assat Pori of the SM-liiga this season.
While no North American represents the Maple Leafs, there are six young players who are worth watching during WJC.
Point Three: Grandpa Dubas’ Lesson to Young Kyle
In my recent search for the Maple Leafs, I came across a story about the growth of Kyle Dubas that caught my eye. Dubas’ grandfather, Walter, was a Stage II trainer in Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before this team joined the OHL. It was unpaid work, and Grandpa Dubas took it in after his 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at the steel mill.
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When young Kyle attended his grandfather’s vigil in 2012, he began to understand what his grandfather stood for and how that translated into what Kyle came to believe in having the right person to be. both behind the bench and away from the rink. (from “Kyle Dubas Using His Own Grandfather Clause to Lead the Maple Leafs”, Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 29/11/20).
Although Walter had to give up training as his young family grew, Kyle has learned that there are many people in Sault Ste. Marie had not forgotten the influence of her grandfather. Young Kyle, who was the Greyhounds’ stick boy, also didn’t sit with Grandpa Dubas during practice and eventually became the team’s general manager.
During the Maple Leafs Virtual Coaches Open House at the end of november, Dubas told host Ron MacLean that “the night he passed away we went to the house where he and my grandmother had lived for 60 years. She cut out and saved all the (game) articles from the journal. ”
Dubas recalls: “You have heard former players say that he demands them and holds them accountable, but he always supported them. He spent a lot of time with players who needed parental and general guidance. He was their favorite coach, for playing a certain way, for joining and for the way they were treated.
Dubas admitted that his grandfather’s lessons were “something that I tried to transfer into my career. I got to know some great coaches – Dave Cameron, Craig Hartsburg, Sheldon (Keefe, with the Leafs). I have always loved my relationship with coaches, thanks to my grandfather.
What’s next for the Maple Leafs?
The jury is not out among the Maple Leafs fans on whether Thornton can still play and what he could add to the Maple Leafs. It might be, but one thing we do know about Thornton is that he’s universally loved wherever he goes. Today’s post re-tweeted by Johnston above from Thornton’s HC Davos team is similar to a lot of other stories I’ve heard.
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These little things make me believe Thornton will add a lot to the lodge and on the ice. I may not be the majority among the Maple Leafs fans, but I think the organization is lucky to have him with the team.