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PostPosted: 12 Mar 2018, 22:26 
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Of the 20 players who dressed for the Kings on the night of their second Stanley Cup celebration earlier this month, 11 were drafted and developed by the organization. Steven Adams Jersey . There were first round picks like Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson, second round selections like Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford, a steal in the third in Jonathan Quick and fourth rounders like Dwight King and the biggest playoff hero of them all, Alec Martinez. And while L.A. would require and benefit from upgrades via trade – Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, Mike Richards most prominently – the foundations of their success are rooted in their fruitful draft and development scheme. The Leafs, absent from the playoffs for eight of the past nine seasons and long-starved of consistent homegrown talent, are scratching and clawing to try to get to that point (someday). Earlier this week, Dave Morrison, Torontos director of amateur scouting, detailed a draft process that appears to be slowly moving in the right direction. Development is the other and usually forgotten side of the coin. Spurring that effort for the Leafs is Jim Hughes, who spoke with TSN.ca about the challenges and trials of development and what the organization is doing to improve the process. SIEGEL: Whats the process when a player gets drafted by the organization? Whats that process like of taking him as a teenager and trying to get him to the NHL? How do you do that? HUGHES: Usually year one, we allow the kid to do his thing. We meet the coaches. We make sure the kids in good shape [and] hes in a good spot and we usually dont press their buttons. We dont have a sense of urgency with a kid at an early stage, but as he develops into year two, into year three, we turn the heat up, we turn the urgency up. A guy like Freddy Gauthier for instance; last year, we let him work through some stuff. We give him the details of what he needs to do to be successful in terms of making the World Junior team. We give him some bullet point details in terms of being physical, stopping on loose pucks, blocking shots, winning faceoffs, playing with some urgency. We give him some details in terms of what he needs to do in year one. In year two, our demands will be a lot greater. Well be pressing the button a little bit harder. Well be trying to push him up the mountain, challenging him, both mentally and physically. We try to expedite the process, all the while knowing that theres got to be some patience in the mix as well. SIEGEL: Is that a constant conversation that youre having with him? HUGHES: Sometimes its a weekly, sometimes it might be monthly, sometimes its when its necessary, sometimes we stay out of their way. If the kids in a good spot [and] the coaches are delighted with the player we might stay out of their way a little bit. If the coach says [the prospect] needs a kick in the ass and hes doing just enough to get by in practice then we might step in and poke him a little bit and poke him a little bit. All were doing is were a support to the coaching staff; were a support to the management team. If the kids playing in U.S. college hockey, or the kids playing in the Quebec league, were just there for support, pretty much providing the same message that his staff is providing and if we have to poke him we will. SIEGEL: I wanted to ask you about that process with the prospects team. How does the coordination work? What if you have a prospect in a situation that you dont deem to be advantageous? Lets say for two weeks hes not getting any power-play time or something along those lines. How do you work with the teams to put the prospect in a position to succeed? HUGHES: Well, well get in early and eyeball the coach and find out what his opinions were of the player, find out what the plan is, what the process is with the player, where hes going to start; he might start as a third-line left wing and then the coach says hell work his way into a second-line position in year two. They usually have a plan and a method to the madness. In a lot of ways we put the onus and responsibility back on the player. For instance, Ive had a player say to me well, the coach doesnt like me and before he can get the whole sentence out I stop him in his tracks and I say the coach wants to win and if the coach thinks that you can help him win the coach will play you. So we always challenge the kid to have a great first shift. Why? Because hell give you a second one. Have a great second shift, hell give you a third one. Because thats the way life works. They have to earn the right and theyve got to compete for their job and theyve got to battle. So usually we dont go to the staff, well go back to the player. Well go back to the player and put it on the players shoulders because again, its about winning and if the coach thinks that you can contribute and help him win then he will play you. And thats sort of the mission statement that we usually use with these kids. Now, if theres obviously an issue down the road and weve got to talk to the coaching staff and its not a right mix or its not a right match then well deal with that down the road. But usually we can talk these things out with the player. SIEGEL: How quickly do you understand what type of personality that you have as far as some guys respond to a kick in the ass, some guys need to be coddled; is that something that you can pick up on year one as to how to interact with the player to get him to where he needs to be? HUGHES: Yeah, thats a good question. I think what we do is we try to get to know the personality, try to get to know the person, find out if hes approachable, find out if hes a little bit distant and how we can warm up to him and sort of present our messages politely. And then at some point it might be a very direct, very harsh message. Theres different ways, depending on the kid and basically where hes at in the process. But I like to believe that we tell the kid the truth – the good, the bad and the ugly. The only way were going to make forward progress is by giving them the information, telling them the truth. This is what youre doing great. This is what your skill-sets are. This is what you need to improve on. And basically be really honest with them in terms of the dos and the donts and what we like and basically what needs to be tweaked and what needs to be changed. SIEGEL: But is there an added element in Toronto? I wanted to ask you specifically in the case of Nazem. Nazem comes up, theres all this hype; its Toronto at its finest. How do you navigate through those waters when theres so many external factors outside of your control pulling the kid in different directions? HUGHES: Nazem was more patience. And its almost a trial by error. Its almost one step forward, maybe one step back, two steps forward and it was a process of two, three years. It was a maturity thing. It wasnt a lack of passion. It wasnt a youve got to work on your skill-sets. It wasnt about hey, does Nazem love the game? We already knew that. That was more of the personality and just talking him through things and trying to nurture him and trying to get him to see things maybe differently than the way hes living or doing on the ice. That was a tedious one. Some guys move up the ladder a little bit faster. A guy like Josh Leivo we drafted at 178 pounds and hes a dog on the bone. And we said son, youve got an NHL stick, youve got soft hands, youve got an NHL brain, but youre weak as [expletive]. And he went to work. He got in the MCC and he went from 178 [pounds] to 198 [pounds] and hes chiseled and strong. And he did that work. He did the work. Hes responsible for the work. We just gave him the information and said this is whats in front of you and this is what you need to do and he did it. SIEGEL: You mentioned patience; how do you balance that with the different personalities, like not looking at one guy and saying why arent you getting there faster like this other guy? HUGHES: I can give you an example of a guy thats got a workload thats intense and hes got a passion level thats intense is Connor Brown. I just spoke to him earlier today. His weight is moving in the right direction. He was with [strength coach Anthony] Belza this morning, him and five other players were at the MCC this morning. Hes putting weight on and its man-strength that we call it and its just going to take time. This doesnt happen overnight. So hes got the workload, hes got the passion, hes got the dedication, the desire, but if the man-strength is going to come its going to come when hes 21, 22. Hes a late bloomer and in a lot of ways weve just got to understand that this kid is doing everything in his power. Hes eating five meals a day. Hes eating the right foods. He goes to bed at night. Hes got a good lifestyle. Hes got good habits. And we just need to know that hes moving in the right direction and its just going to take a little bit of time. Its going to take some time, but we know that the process is moving in the right direction. Hes probably a perfect example of a kid that I dont think we can speed it up anymore. Its human nature. Hes going from a skinny, scrawny kid to becoming a man. SIEGEL: And hes part of a group of prospects that you have that look like theyre really moving in the right direction. Youve been in the job now five years; is there something that youve learned about it – maybe watching other teams or doing it yourself – as to how to make that process of development work? HUGHES: I think some of it is trial by error. We tweak things. But weve always been brutally honest with the kids – good, bad and ugly. Weve been positive with the kids. Weve been direct with them in terms of they need to inspire and they need to empower themselves. We go after the mind just as much as we go after the physical part of it. The brain muscle sometimes is neglected. So we talk about the mindset, we talk about the passion and loving the game and empowering yourself. Dont wait for the coach to empower you; you empower yourself. You treat yourself like its your own business. You run it like its your own business. You run it like its your own business. And you make it what you want it to be. We try to stimulate them from an intellectual standpoint, just as much as we do it from a physical standpoint. And weve got a great team of people that are involved with this process. We have Belza and [skating coach] Barbara [Underhill]; they instantly made the Greg McKeggs better. Greg McKegg needed to work on his skating so hes with Belza working on the physical side of things and then he gets out with Barbara and works on the mechanical side of things. So youre running it up the ladder side by side and between the two all of sudden we dont really talk about Greg McKeggs skating anymore because weve got the people in place that are doing their jobs and making this thing work. Then weve got Bobby Carpenter and weve got Steve Staios that are in the player development department as well. We all have our own style and yet were all saying the same things. We talk to him from a mental standpoint. We talk to him about a physical standpoint. Were here to nurture them, teach them and grow them. And again, some guys are more serious about it than others and thats basically what separates the junior players and the AHL players from the guys that eventually become NHL players. SIEGEL: I think the mental side is interesting and it ties in with what I want to ask you next. You look at someone like Carter Ashton; you watch him with the Marlies and hes dominant at times. And then when he comes up to the NHL and he looks like hes trying to find his way a little bit more. How do you take a player whos right on the cusp and get them into the NHL? HUGHES: More touches; exposure to the power-play; playing with high-end players at the American League level which is going to slow his brain down when he has the puck. Everything doesnt have to be a mad race; have some puck poise. And when youre playing with a Spencer Abbott or you play him with a Peter Holland, they possess it and they want to give it and they want to go. So naturally when you put Carter with [one of those guys] then hes going to get the touches and hes got to be creative because they want to be creative. Its not a dump-and-chase, get it out, get it in; theyre forced to make plays. So just that experience and having that puck-time is part of the maturation for Carter in terms of moving himself from an American League player to a National League player. Hes probably stuck between the two leagues right now because hes got some really good qualities; he cares about his teammates; hes physical; he can skate; he can get up and down the rink; hes got a high-compete load. And hes just got to find that balance of not losing the aggressiveness, but learning how to slow it down when he has the puck a little bit. Its training your mind, slowing it down in your brain is basically that attachment that hes learning to do right now. Because he made some beautiful plays at the American League level this year, now hes just got to take it and bring it into the National League with him. SIEGEL: More generally speaking, do you think you have a system in place now where you can take more of these prospects and get them to the NHL? How do you take the development system that you have and keep making it better to get more of these guys to that point? HUGHES: Thats where [Steve Spott], [Derek King], [Gord Dineen], thats where they come in. Stuart Percy is a great example of playing 20 minutes per night, playing in all situations – playing on the power-play, playing on the penalty kill – playing in almost 20 playoff games and that experience is invaluable; youve got to earn the right to play in those games. And so our American League coaches are giving these guys every opportunity to earn the right to win positions and to be on the ice in critical situations. Stuarts a perfect example of that. [Petter] Granberg was a big piece of that puzzle as well. Were talking about the player development and nurturing them through their junior careers or college careers and then we work with them through the summers and then Spotter and his crew grab them in the winter and expose them to situations and get them the quality minutes in the right situations. And again, thats how you expedite the process and thats how were trying to get as many guys to graduate from the American League to the NHL. Some need more time than others, but its a multitude of people all pulling rope the same way and thats sort of the way weve been operating over the past [few] years. SIEGEL: Can you feel that youve got some kids that might be able to make that step, if not the step next year to the Marlies? HUGHES: I think so. Youve got [Matt] Finn coming and youve got Brown and youve got Tommy Nilsson coming and weve got [Andreas] Johnson doing a good job over in Sweden. Weve got Percy coming. 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