With the trade deadline rapidly approaching in the NHL, fans around the league and in this market are searching high and low in order to bolster their current roster in hopes of reaching the promised land.
In Toronto, the glaring holes remain most noticeably along the blueline and each trade scenario has the team giving up quality assets in order to get better for the playoffs push. While he won’t be ready for this season, I never hear the name Travis Dermott mentioned as a player who is part of the solution heading into the future for the Maple Leafs.
Picked by the Toronto in the 2nd round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (34th overall), the 20 year old Dermott might not yet be noticed by fans, but he is being watched keenly by Leafs Organization.
Standing in at 5’11” but built like a fire hydrant at 215 pounds, has managed to gain my attention in nothing but a positive manner during his first season of Professional hockey.
Dermott started off the Marlies season very well until a lower body, high ankle sprain, set him back for 6 weeks while he recovered. The team suffered, and Coach Keefe mentioned more than a few times how much he was missed which in itself is huge compliment for a Rookie defenceman in the AHL.
Being a typical Leafs fan, it is well within my nature to see nothing but positives when it comes to players Drafted by the organization, and even ones collected on the waiver wire.
So, it has been my goal to study the game of Travis Dermott over the last few weeks to find not only the positives but the negatives as well.
It is very easy to see the positive attributes to the way Dermott plays the game. A smooth skating, and elusive player with the puck, which to me he is exactly how the game is evolving when defending your own end of the rink.
Dermott has the ability to escape pressure and the forecheck with his skating. There are times he will even throw off an opposing player with a well timed head fake as he cuts the other direction with the puck, clearing the zone with his wheels or a crisp first pass.
Positionally, the former Erie Otter, makes very few mistakes. Not just based on his skating, but his sturdy frame allows Travis to block avenues to the net for opposition forwards. This combination gives Garret Sparks or Antoine Bibeau a better ability to see the puck and also less worry about deflections in front of the net.
If you look at a stat line from the season you will see that Dermott has 1 goal and 14 assists in 32 games thus far in the 2016-17 campaign. Not flashy at all, but it is my belief there is much more to give in the offensive zone and that will come with time. Last season in the OHL, Dermott finished 2nd in the voting for the leagues Most Valuable Defenceman, while posting a 37 assists and 43 points for his Erie hockey club.
What leads me to believe there is more? Travis Dermott has outstanding vision with (and without) the puck. Not only can he see where his players are, but he can predict where the play will be going. He also has a heavier shot than given credit for and my favourite aspect….flat passes. What? Quite often in hockey you will see wonderful hard passes that are bobbled all over the ice because of how they are delivered. During a ‘one timer’ opportunity, Dermott will make a crisp pass but it always arrives ‘flat’. To me this is incredible to see and to watch. The game is all about speed, and if a player has to settle a puck down before he can shoot it, lanes close and opportunities are lost. Dermott and his passing ability will maximize on those chances, in my opinion.
So for the negatives, there must be some, right?
Well I haven’t seen them yet. Even in the most recent game versus a very spirited Syracuse Crunch team, Travis Dermott did not shy away from the physical side of the game. He gave it out, as good as he got it…..and then some. Trust me, I watched all of the ‘behind the play’ action that took place and loved every minute of it.
After the win versus Syracuse, I got an opportunity to talk to Toronto Marlies Head Coach Sheldon Keefe about Dermott.
When asked how his game has been so far this season, Keefe said this “Travis played very strong in all areas of the game in the early part of the season, then we lost him for 6 weeks due to injury. It took him a bit of time to get back up to speed and now has found his groove again.”
I then asked about his attributes, Keefe further explained ” he is very reliable, competitive, strong, and has the agility to move around the rink to do the things we want our team to be doing in regards to puck pressure and taking away space”
Knowing that I am the prototypical Leafs fan with the Blue and White blinders on, and even though I have tried to find flaws in his game, I decided to ask Coach what I was missing.
“Like a lot of young players who first come into this league, you look for them to have consistency in their game. There are times that Travis gets so focused on the puck he can loose his assignment on coverage, but that is really it. It’s a short list which is a good thing for a young player”.
So there you have the update on Leafs Prospect Travis Dermott, while many of the sports talk radio shows are trading William Nylander for a shiny new toy from outside of the organization remember there is talent within and it is not to be overlooked.
While Dermott might not be ready to help the Toronto Maple Leafs run at a Playoffs position this season, there is no doubt in my mind that he is going to be a solid NHL defenceman in the future and this year in the AHL will be a huge part of his foundation moving forward.
Photo Creds: @ChrisTSGphoto