In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some news emerging from the Maple Leafs’ development camp. First, I’ll speak about Hayley Wickenheiser’s work with the team and the approach she takes when she’s coaching the young prospects she works with.
Second, I’ll report the good news that Pierre Engvall has re-signed with the team for another year. Third, I’ll share some news about a likely new member of the Maple Leafs’ roster – but now quite yet. Matthew Knies has a plan, and I’ll share that with readers.
Item One: Wickenheiser’s Work Ethic & Logical Approach
I just had to start off this edition of News & Rumors with a logical thought from Hayley Wickenheiser about the place of hockey that the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby included in the last part of his article yesterday about the Maple Leafs Development Camp.
Wickenheiser, as most Maple Leafs’ fans know, is rising through the ranks of the Maple Leafs’ management team and is now an Assistant General Manager. She was a Canadian Olympian and world champion hockey player. She’s also a medical doctor.
There were a few really interesting pieces in the Hornby article. One note is that Wickehheiser has not slowed down her medical studies when she’s also working full time with the Maple Leafs’ management as well as now completely enveloped in the team’s development camp. A few nights, she’s put in a full 24 hours at the hospital working to complete her residency. Without sleeping, she comes right to the rink the next morning.
As she noted, “One gives energy to the other.” Being old school, I find her commitment and work ethic laudable.
While she’s been working at the development camp, her job includes supervising 43 players at the development camp. Those players include six goalies and 13 draft picks. They are mostly 2019 and 2020 selections, and they also include four of the five players drafted nine days ago in Montreal. Including, as Hornby noted, 38th overall draft choice Fraser Minten.
During the first day of the camp on Saturday, the groups engaged in a light skate as part of medicals and started Sunday with puck possession and pace drills. Wickenheiser noted how engaged the players were. She specifically shared that “I really notice the questions they’re asking off the ice.”
About her conversations with her young players, she noted that working as a doctor gives her perspective. “When I’m talking to players (I say): ‘Hey, it’s not the end of the world.’ Because sometimes (at the hospital) I see the end of the world.” (from “Matthew Knies the focus of attention as Maple Leafs development camp gets underway,” Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun, 17/07/2022).
Item Two: Engvall Re-Signs for Another Season
Last season, it seemed as if Pierre Engvall found what his game should be. He had been flirting with head coach Sheldon Keefe’s dog house off and on for a while, but that all stopped when Engvall found a permanent home as a third-line winger on one of the best shutdown lines in NHL hockey.
The result is that Engvall had a breakout season in 2021-22. He put up 15 goals and added 20 assists (for 35 points), and his solid play was worth a new contract that pays him $2.25 million for one more year with the team.
However, the one-year deal makes the 26-year-old Engvall a UFA (unrestricted free agency) in a year. Look for Engvall to play in the third-line same spot; however, he’ll likely have a new linemate. New signee Calle Jarnkrok will probably slot into Ilya Mikheyev’s old spot. Mikheyev will be trying to score 40 goals with the Vancouver Canucks.
Item Three: Knies Wants to Hit the Ground Running
As a prospect, Matthew Knies gets more interesting every day. While attending the Maple Leafs’ development camp, Knies was asked about his plan for his future with the team. In his words, he isn’t as ready as he wants to be – yet. He wants one more year at the University of Minnesota to ”mature” his game before joining the Maple Leafs.
Knies believed he still needed to grow his game. “Hopefully I can join them at the end of the season. Once I’ve matured myself as a player, I think that’s when I can make the step and kind of give the Leafs a boost and try to make them a better team.”
Knies already knows his plan. He’ll play another season at Minnesota with the Golden Gophers; then, after his sophomore season, he feels he’ll be ready to become a full-time member of the Maple Leafs’ roster as they finish the 2022-23 season.
After he’s finished with the Maple Leafs’ development camp, in August he’ll play with Team United States at the World Junior Championship. When asked why he chose to wait an extra year to jump to the NHL, Knies shared that he needed “one more year to become a better player. It’s a big step to the NHL and I’m trying to make it a smooth transition.”
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Regularly, but not as regularly as I’d like, I bounce off the ideas of readers to pull together a post. The recent conversation sections of posts have brought up the names of some players who have been vilified over the years with the team.
Some of them include players like Larry Murhpy, Nazem Kadry, Jake Gardiner, Cody Ceci, and Phil Kessel. Now William Nylander seems to have become a target for some. I’d like to gather readers’ ideas on a topic roughly titled “Maple Leafs’ Whipping Boys Throughout the Years.”
I invite you to contribute to the conversation section if you’d like. Note that I will likely edit your thoughts to fit the shape of the post, but will attribute the idea to your hashtag noted. Thanks in advance for considering contributing.