The Skinny: Here we are, the last men standing. We’ve done all the talking and assessments are made. Now it’s up to you who you see as the Toronto Maple Leafs 6th defenseman on opening night. The well rounded and seemingly NHL ready Travis Dermott versus the PP skills and large frame of Andrew Nielsen. Both 2015 draft choices, one a 2nd and one a 3rd, I have to tell you I’m very pleased this is who it has come down to. I’m a fan of both players, what they are all about, and what they can each bring to the D-core of our Toronto Maple Leafs going forward.
Tale of the Stick Tape
20 years old
Toronto Marlies – AHL
74gms 14g 25a 39pts
From first viewing on and holding firm with that today, I’ve predicted big things for the 65th pick overall in the 2015 draft and then putting up 70pts in 71gms for Lethbridge in his draft year + 1. Beyond the viewings I’ve spoke with Andrew on a couple occasions during rookie camps and with the Marlies and got to know his off ice persona through others and in my findings the word which comes to mind is driven. Nielsen has worked hard on his physical frame and incorporating it into his play. As a junior he was criticized at times for not using his size and has made a conscious effort to add an element of nasty to his game. Now the expectations I put on the defenseman and his path of getting there will be determined or made more clear based on this upcoming season and his summer. For Nielsen his first campaign with the Marlies was very much the pattern of a rookie blueliner with offensive upside. But you can talk about the natural stumbles and learning curve all you want. What’s undeniable is the massive, massive potential for production in Nielsen. His cannon from the point is high to elite level NHL caliber and only going to get harder. The best part about that fact is the complimentary seeing eye wrist shot he carries along with the bomb. He gets shots through and makes very heady passes from the top as well. As good as the Leafs PP was the one thing it lacks is a true point threat. Andrew Nielsen can be that threat. 14 goals as 20 year old defenseman in the AHL is extremely noteworthy, with 25 assists to throw in. Those are the kind of numbers I project for him as a full time member of the Maple Leafs if he finds his way onto the already lethal powerplay.
20 years old
34th overall 2015
Toronto Marlies AHL
59gms 5g 19a 24pts +9
Sheldon Keefe, Dermott’s coach last year, called him the best 20 year old defenseman in the AHL or at least he can’t think of any better. Kyle Dubas echoed that sentiment and this unabashed praise isn’t the norm for the current organization. Still, an honest assessment and one the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs Lou Lamoriello must have taken into consideration when he said at the end of this season a Marlie defenseman was ready to graduate. You don’t need tea leaves to figure out who Uncle Lou meant. I’ve watched Dermott a ton his draft year in Erie and a bit less his next year but enough. Same guy there as I see with the Marlies, and will be the same guy when he arrives with the Leafs. I can’t think of any way else to put it, Travis Dermott is a hockey player in every sense. He plays for the love of the game and with passion. He plays with smarts and he plays you tough. Everybody wants a Travis Dermott. And we have one. But the key to it all really is most simply feel he’s going to make the team better, today. Dermott is versatile in his skill set, anywhere from #2 to a #6 and be good at it. I don’t know where he’ll top out but I will tell you he can play in this league.
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