TORONTO – Maybe, just maybe, the jury is still out.
Eleven of 12 armchair general managers have long reigned over the Florida Panthers, the runaway winners of the 2020 Mason Marchment – for –Denis Malgin Trade.
Rightly so, with the undersized Malgin who has spent the last two campaigns spinning around the Swiss league and the murderous Marchment who burst with an 18-goal, 47-point contribution for the Presidents’ Trophy champions.
Yet Malgin – once seen as a skilled European whose skills only translate at home – is back in Toronto, making another attempt after a few points-per-game tours across his home country and a touch of 12 points in the world of May. championship.
Sharpen the blade, but don’t saw off that trade tree branch yet.
“The NHL is the best league in the world, so you always have the spirit to come back,” said the 25-year-old. “That was my goal.”
The most dangerous scorer of last winter’s edition of the Zurich Lions (hey, Auston Matthews’ alma mater!), Malgin has seen plenty of ice time in all situations and earned the trust of coach Rikard Gronborg.
Malgin arrives at the Toronto tryouts with a quiet determination to outplay and impress several cap-friendly wingers battling to make the final cut.
Many noted his composure and confidence.
In Malgin’s first pre-season game on Saturday, he shone alongside William Nylander and found the net.
On Monday, the speedy five-foot-nine waterbug received those coveted second-line left wing representatives with Nylander and captain John Tavares, completing a few tic-tac-toe rushes.
“Well, he’s probably just a little more familiar with his surroundings. Even right next to the ice, he’s a pretty quiet and shy guy, but you can tell he opens up a lot more. And obviously (he) had a really good season abroad and seems really confident in his game,” Tavares said.
“I think we moved the puck well between us, so I think Malgs has a lot of potential and obviously a really good skill set.”
Nylander agrees: “Excellent little player.”
While it would be foolish to put Malgin in the Leafs’ opening night top six, the hole in the left side of Tavares’ unit is a big deal.
Malgin may be the first to race there, but he won’t be the last. Calle Järnkrok, Adam Gaudette, Nick Robertson, Pierre Engvall and Alexander Kerfoot should all be there.
“As for John and Will, straight away I consider it an available job. Guys can compete for that,” Keefe says.
“It gives us the opportunity throughout this pre-season to try different things for what is unavoidable in terms of injuries or player travel throughout the season. We will have different looks at things at gradually.
Right now, Malgin has his look.
So far it’s been brilliant.
“It’s hard for a guy like him to really participate in practices,” Keefe said. “He’s a highly skilled guy who makes plays and can make a difference offensively. He was good the first two days. He was excellent (Saturday).
“Every time he touched the puck, it seemed like something good was going on with it.”
Marner gains volume, becomes lighter
Compare Michael Marnerfrom Mitchell’s 2021 training camp to Mitchell Marner’s 2022 training camp and two things stand out.
He is happier and heavier.
In the fall of 2021, the magic playmaker looked tight. His exchanges with journalists were sometimes tense. Naturally, Toronto’s ugly playoff slump against Montreal — and its scoreless performance in those seven games — had lingering effects.
Remember, before bursting out for his career-best 97-point tear, Marner couldn’t find the net in the first eight games of 2021-22.
Smiling, joking and buzzing, Marner looks every milligram like his true self these days. From the cheap seats, you could hear some of his giddy screams during the Saturday morning show shifts across Ottawa. His slippery manner earned him two penalties for tripping. And his meetings with the press were easy and conversational.
Newly committed off the ice, Marner is fully committed to it.
“He continues to mature and learn more and more about himself,” says Tavares. “The dynamic of being in his role, his stature in the game and in the team, (he’s) more comfortable there. Year after year you just learn more and have a better understanding.
“Every year you want to start as quickly as possible. As careers progress, there are ups and downs at different times, and you learn to overcome them. And how he started last year, I don’t think it was because he was playing badly. But I think you saw a huge progression in that game in the second half.
The guy is at his best feeling loose.
“Early indications are that he arrived at camp in good shape,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He certainly doesn’t look like a guy resting on what he accomplished last season. He tries to lean on it. »
One thing the six-foot right winger has already built on is his frame, dropping from 172 pounds this time last year to 181.
He’s proud of the adjustments he’s made over the summer, mostly eating healthier with a focus on muscle-building nutrition.
“It’s not much of a jump, but it’s still a few pounds that make you feel a little stronger,” said Marner, who threw a career-high 75 hits last season. “I can kind of cut the ice a little more, go one-on-one with the guys a little more. But we’ll see when the real season starts. Now it’s just about keeping that weight off, staying healthy, and seeing how I feel about it.
His teammate William Nylander has already noticed Marner throwing his weight.
“He looks good in battles, that’s for sure. I noticed it early on when I got here,” says Nylander.
Auston Matthews’ plan to welcome Marner into their desert home was ruined last summer when the center player opted for wrist surgery.
But the linemates pulled off a rain check last month, as Matthews ferried his two local wingers across the country for a fun week of work/play.
“I thought it would be good for them to get out of Toronto a bit,” smiles Matthews. “We just hung out and competed a lot. I played a lot of tennis, golf, table tennis, a lot of stuff. It was just a great week to relax, but also work and prepare for the season.
The paddle and snowshoe battles were just as competitive as the ice sessions.
“It was great to go down this year,” Marner said. “We want to win in everything we do against each other.”
Marner admits he’s the third-best tennis player on the front row, but the Michael Bunting vs. Matthews matches were intense.
“Whatever they say, I’ve dominated tennis,” Bunting said. “We had success together last year and it’s fun to play with them. Hopefully we can keep rolling with that and keep building that chemistry.
Steph Curry noted that Marner took back his jersey on the Matthews sports field.
“Curry was always my guy,” Marner says, sketching a parallel. “A smaller guy and a lot of people didn’t think he would turn out. A lot of people doubted him. What he’s done in basketball has been remarkable and something special to watch as a fan The work he puts into his craft which shows every day on the pitch is impressive.
Timers: Five days into camp and Jake Muzzin (back pain) has yet to join his teammates on the ice. He and Pierre Engvall (foot/ankle) skated on a separate pad…. Home defender Jordie Benn peeked alongside Morgan “Green Light” Rielly…. Adam Gaudette missed Monday’s practice with a shoulder injury suffered against Ottawa on Saturday and is listed day to day…. David Kämpf was absent for personal reasons…. Tavares’ first impression of the Maple Leafs 2022 first draft pick, Fraser Minten, with whom he skated in the summer: “Very heady player. Clever. Just a joy to be around. I think he’s a great kid. We have a good one in him. ”…Starter Matt Murray will take to the ice at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday for the first time wearing the team crest he grew up putting down roots for. “It’ll be cool, that’s for sure,” Murray said. “But I’m trying to make the most of it and getting ready for the first game of the season. (Wednesday) is the first step towards that. So, I just hope to enjoy it and make the most of it.