Behind the Net Podcast Episode 38: A Tale of Two Toronto Teams (ft. Mike Stephens)

In this week’s episode, Michael Mazzei and I recap what we missed in the previous week, share our thoughts on the NHL and NBA Draft lotteries, and redo the 2012 NBA Draft. We are then joined by Mike Stephens, an NHL analyst for Yahoo Sports Canada, and former managing editor of The Leafs Nation. We discuss his upbringing in the sports media landscape, his favourite memories covering the Marlies and his experience with the Dangle Navy team. We also reflect on the Leafs-Blue Jackets series, why the 2019-20 season was a wasted opportunity, how the team should approach the offseason, and what Bruce Boudreau could bring to the team.
Time Stamps:
3:30: Toronto Maple Leafs reactions, NHL playoffs
8:50: Toronto Raptors success, NBA Playoffs, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers
17:55: 2012 NBA Redraft
34:55: Mike Stephens:

35:40: How he got into sports media
45:00: Why he loves Trevor Moore
48:00: Stories from covering the Toronto Marlies
53:05: Playing with the Dangle Navy
56:50: Toronto Maple Leafs qualifying round impressions
1:02:30: Who impressed and who disappointed?
1:05:10: What to do with Frederik Andersen and Mitch Marner?
1:16:45: Who should the Leafs trade?
1:24:15: Bruce Boudreau, coaching decisions, ideal moves
1:32:15: Stanley Cup predictions, Raptors talk

1:45:35: NHL and NBA draft lottery reactions
Where you …

Read More

Author: Matthew Rodrigopulle / The Leafs Nation

2019 NHL Draft Recap: Mikhail Abramov brings smarts and skill

This is the fifth of my six 2019 NHL Draft Recap articles, in which I do a deep dive into every Maple Leafs selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 115th overall selection in the 2019 draft, the Maple Leafs took a swing on skilled Russian playmaker, Mikhail Abramov, who spent his draft season in the QMJHL with the Victoriaville Tigres. Abramov was expected to be taken higher than this by many people who followed the draft all season long (myself included) and seems like a good value selection in the fourth round.
Let’s take a look at what Abramov brings to the table
Scouting Report
If you’re on Twitter, like me, you probably see some absurd takes from time to time. One of the worst takes I saw post-draft was that the Leafs had a bad draft because they selected a bunch of small players, none of which were born in Canada.
Mikhail Abramov is an undersized Russian player, but despite what some people may tell you, that is not always a bad thing.
I can confirm, Mikhail Abramov is not a big player. Quite the opposite, actually. Most 17/18-year-old players are physically immature, but Abramov is even …

Read More

Author: 51Leafs / The Leafs Nation

2019 NHL Draft Recap: Kalle Loponen is a skilled right-handed defenceman worth taking a chance on

This is my fourth of six 2019 NHL Draft Recap articles, in which I do a deep dive into every Maple Leafs selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
In the 7th round with the 204th overall selection, the Maple Leafs took a flier on Finnish RHD Kalle Loponen, who split time between four Finnish leagues last season: Jr. B SM-Sarja (Finland’s 2nd tier junior league), Jr. A SM-Liiga (Finland’s top junior league), the Mestis (Finland’s 2nd tier pro league), and one game in the Liiga (Finland’s top pro league), where he was actually paired with new Leafs signing Teemu Kivihalme.
He’s quite an interesting prospect (who was honestly a little bit difficult for me to get a read on at first).
Let’s get into the scouting report:
Scouting Report
Puck Moving Ability
This was the part of Loponen’s game that was a bit tough for me to get a read on at first, which is a bit strange because moving the puck is usually something that you can either do, or you can’t do, and it’s obvious. With Loponen, the tools are there, for sure. He makes a good first pass up …

Read More

Author: 51Leafs / The Leafs Nation

2019 NHL Draft Recap: Mikko Kokkonen’s calculated style gives him a good shot at an NHL career

This is my third of six 2019 NHL Draft Recap articles, in which I do a deep dive into every Maple Leafs selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Mikko Kokkonen, selected 84th overall in the 2019 NHL draft, was the Maple Leafs’ second pick of the afternoon. He was also their second good pick in a row. The Finnish defenceman may not bring high-end upside to the table, but Kokkonen is quite likely to become an NHL player, which is something that can rarely be said about any 3rd round selection.
Kokkonen was ranked higher than his eventual draft slot by many, as a lot of respected draft analysts had him pegged as a likely second-round pick. Here, I’ll dive into what Kokkonen does well, what he needs to work on, and what exactly the Leafs have in this player.

Scouting Report

Defensive Game

I’ll start out by breaking down an area where Kokkonen really excels: the defensive game.
Kokkonen is calm when defending in his own zone. He doesn’t chase the play, puck watch or leave his assignment. He knows where he has to stand and when he has to stand there. Kokkonen gets his stick into passing …

Read More

Author: 51Leafs / The Leafs Nation

2019 NHL Draft Recap: Nick Robertson is a first round talent that happened to be available in the second round

This is my second of six 2019 NHL Draft Recap articles, in which I do a deep dive into every Maple Leafs selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
I’m a big fan of Nick Robertson’s game.
In my 2019 NHL Draft rankings, I had Robertson ranked 26th overall. I considered him to be a first-round calibre prospect for a number of reasons. In this article, I’ll be breaking down why I love Robertson’s game such much, and what I think he could become for the Leafs in the future.
Scouting Report
With the puck on his stick, Nick Robertson grabs your attention. He is highly skilled, extremely deceptive, and very smart.
Playmaking
Robertson sees the ice tremendously well, and he can complete highly difficult passes on both his forehand and his backhand. He is a very deceptive passer, one who throws in no-look, fake-shot, and spin-o-rama passes. Robertson is also great at delaying his pass, holding onto the puck for an extra half second or two to really throw defenders off guard. His deception as a passer creates lanes for him to exploit, and it is part of what makes Robertson such a great playmaker.  
Check out this …

Read More

Author: 51Leafs / The Leafs Nation

2019 NHL Draft Recap: Mike Koster is a puck moving defenceman in the truest sense

This is my first of six 2019 NHL Draft Recap articles, in which I do a deep dive into every Maple Leafs selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 146th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Maple Leafs selected 5’9 American defenceman, Mike Koster. Koster, the 2nd overall selection in the 2017 USHL draft, spent time in high school and the USHL last season.
In order to get a glimpse of what Koster has to offer, I watched five games of his games from this past season: 1 from his time in the USHL game and 4 when he participated in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, where Koster was on Team USA’s top pair, 2nd power play unit and top penalty-killing unit.
Here’s my scouting report on him, including where I think he’s at as a player, and what his future projection is.
Scouting Report
As you may have been able to tell from the title of this article, Koster is a puck-moving defenceman. His transition game is his best asset, and it will be the driving force behind getting him to the NHL, should he ever get there. There are two main aspects of the transition game: transporting the puck out …

Read More

Author: 51Leafs / The Leafs Nation