TORONTO – Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock doesn’t flinch when he glances at the points totals for rookie forwards Zach Hyman and Connor Brown.
The youngsters have identical scoring statistics through 24 games: Three goals and five assists for eight points each.
You have to admire the way Babcock has been using the hard-working pair. If they’re going to be Leafs for years to come, something Babcock and the front office anticipates, they’re going to have to be sharp in all aspects.
To that end, Hyman leads all Leafs forwards with an average of two minutes, 47 seconds of ice time a game while the club is shorthanded, while Brown is third among forwards at two minutes seven seconds. Both have been instrumental in getting the Leafs to sixth in the National Hockey League on the penalty kill, clipping along at a success rate of 85.3%.
On the power play? The two have combined for a grand total of six minutes, 16 seconds of ice time.
“If Brownie and Hyman played on the power play, they would have a lot more points, but we use them on the penalty kill,” Babcock said.
“We think that’s important. They are dominant penalty killers. They work hard every day, are part of your drive-train of your team and will be for a long time.”
HAPPY TO VISIT
Following practice on Monday, the Leafs headed downtown for their annual team visit to the Hospital for Sick Children, where they handed out gifts, signed autographs and posed for photos with the young patients.
“It’s humbling to see how happy they get,” goalie Frederik Andersen said. “To see what they go through, it is tough. You look forward to giving a couple of smiles to faces.
“If you can make their day and make them forget about things even for an afternoon, that can mean a lot to both the kids and the families. It probably goes a long way.”
Andersen, meanwhile, had a small camera strapped to the front of his mask during pre-practice drills with goalie coach Steve Briere and backup Jhonas Enroth, who later was placed on waivers.
“Steve wanted to check it out and use the data,” Andersen said. “Certain things, you can use the video. But keeping it simple and getting set early has been most important for me (in his recent solid play).”
Martin Marincin was back on the blueline versus Vancouver on Saturday after sitting six of the previous seven and likely will stay in the lineup against Minnesota on Wednesday.
“He was big and moved the puck and he was involved at the offensive blue line and did not make a lot of mistakes,” Babcock said. “Marty has lots of talent. Confidence is the biggest issue for him. He has to earn the right to be in every day and he played real good for us down the stretch last year. He has to find that game on a consistent basis.”
There were three absences at practice — defenceman Matt Hunwick had a maintenance day, Babcock said, while forward Matt Martin was sick. There was no sign of forward Peter Holland, who stayed at home last week to await a trade while the Leafs were playing in western Canada. As much as the Leafs would like to move Holland, preferably for a draft pick, it might not necessarily happen. Forward Josh Leivo was on the ice and skated on a line with William Nylander and Ben Smith … For the first time since 2012, the Leafs won’t have a prospect on the Canadian junior team, but should be represented on other clubs. On Monday, a pair of Leafs prospects, forward Jeremy Bracco and goalie Joseph Woll, were named to the United States’ preliminary roster for the 2017 world junior in Toronto and Montreal. Sweden included forward Carl Grundstrom, selected 57th overall by the Leafs in June, on its preliminary roster, also announced on Monday.