In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll take a look at three notable pieces of news emerging from the team.
Quick Hit One: Coach Keefe Likes O’Reilly with Tavares and Nylander
One thing that Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe likes about Ryan O’Reilly is how much he talks. Saying it more positively, O’Reilly has great communication skills both on and off the ice. These communication skills, specifically, seem to make him a great complement to John Tavares and William Nylander.
Keefe praises O’Reilly’s ability to get the team going and to communicate effectively, especially when things aren’t going well. Keefe also noted that the second line had a strong game and that O’Reilly’s communication skills were noticeable from the bench. Overall, even in the short time O’Reilly has been around, Keefe has come to value O’Reilly’s contributions both on and off the ice.
O’Reilly’s communication skills and leadership on the ice have been especially valuable to the Maple Leafs, especially when he’s been paired with Tavares and Nylander. Those two players play a “quieter” game on the ice. However, when they are partnered with O’Reilly, the communication has been improved.
Coach Keefe also believes that O’Reilly is the kind of player who makes life easier for his teammates. His personality is positive, which combines with his ability to communicate effectively to help motivate. In fact, coach Keefe noted that O’Reilly can help get his teammates “fired up” when things aren’t going particularly well.
How that works over the long haul remains to be seen. However, during the Montreal Canadiens’ game, Keefe especially praised the line of O’Reilly, Tavares, and Nylander for its strong performance.
Quick Hit Two: William Nylander Is Playing Improved Hockey
After the game on Saturday, coach Keefe also noted that William Nylander had a strong game. Partly, Keefe noted that Nylander showed signs that he is highly motivated to work through the recent downturn in his scoring. What Keefe liked was that Nylander was challenging opposing players one-on-one, was skating through traffic, and was battling hard to get shots off.
Keefe noted that he’d been encouraging Nylander to shoot more on the power play. And, Nylander did just that. For Maple Leafs’ fans, it’s pretty obvious that Nylander’s at his best when he brings that in-your-face type of mindset to his game. In addition, Keefe believes that changing the mix of Nylander’s linemates in five-on-five and on the power play could help him get back on track.
Quick Hit Three: What to Expect from Matthew Knies
Maple Leafs’ fans have been waiting to see what Matthews Knies might bring to the ice in a Blue & White uniform. They do anticipate that he has a lot of potential as an NHL power forward. However, how will his stellar NCAA collegiate game transfer to the NHL?
One thing going for Knies is that he has solid physical attributes and the ability to use his strength effectively on the ice. However, it’s also good to anticipate that there will likely be an adjustment period as Knies transitions from college to the NHL.
Another solid part of Knies’ game is that he has a high hockey IQ. The cerebral side of his game helps him to make smart decisions and pick his spots effectively. Overall, it should be fun to see how Knies might do when he’s partnered with solid NHL players.
From what I’m seeing, the Maple Leafs might just be in a spot and in a mood to allow that to happen. Their place in the postseason is set, and they are resting (load management) some of its players.
Will he play tonight? I wouldn’t be surprised.