At first glance, it looked like Lou Lamoriello was only targeting picks and prospects when he sent Daniel Winnik and a 2016 fifth-round pick over to the Washington Capitals before last year’s trade deadline. In return, the Toronto Maple Leafs received defenseman prospect Connor Carrick, Washington’s 2016 second-round pick and veteran forward Brooks Laich. For a team that’s in the midst of a rebuild, Carrick, and a draft selection adds value to the Maple Leafs future. However, at the time of the deal, acquiring Laich seemed like nothing more than a salary dump for the Capitals. The 11-year veteran’s cap hit is $4.5 million and isn’t producing nearly as close as he used to, but his presence could help the younger Maple Leafs get comfortable in the NHL. For the 2016-17 season, look for Laich to mentor the Maple Leafs rookies.
Following the trade deadline, Laich managed to put up seven points in 21 games with Toronto. He played a bottom-six role while mentoring the younger players during their time of coming up from the minors. Laich hasn’t forgotten to take them under his wing during the off-season.
Brooks Laich Mentoring Maple Leafs Rookies
It’s safe to assume Nylander will be on the Maple Leafs roster come opening night. His father, Michael Nylander, played with Laich for two seasons. As for Kapanen, his father, Sami Kapanen, played against Laich in the Eastern Conference for a few seasons. Both William and Kasperi are familiar with the 33-year old forward, who plans on continuing his mentorship in the Maple Leafs dressing room.
Once again, we see here that Laich is connecting with Connor Carrick. These two may have a stronger connection thanks to their time in the Capitals organization, but the relationship has carried on north of the border.
Laich has always demonstrated interest towards playing a “big brother” role for the younger generation. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Laich was the middle child who developed into a role model for his younger brother. Now that both of them have grown up, Laich seeks to help and support new players to Toronto and easing them into the league.
One of Laich’s next task is Auston Matthews. The 19-year old already has an understanding playing with men; his resume shows no shortage of valuable experience. By playing in the Swiss National League, the World Championships, and now the World Cup of Hockey, Matthews is more than prepared to enter the NHL. But learning curves are inevitable to the best of the best. That’s where Laich will step in.
Mitch Marner should be the biggest challenge for Laich. The fourth-overall pick in 2015 doesn’t have the size of Matthews and has been dominating the OHL for the past few seasons. Marner boasts a tremendous amount of skill, but playing against men after spending years skating around boys will be a steep mountain to climb. Marner can be a star in the NHL with his speed and skill, but learning a thing or two from a veteran can be useful as a rookie.
In sports, the coach is supposed to push the players, often correcting their wrongdoings. Seasoned veterans are the most knowledgeable players in a system. Laich will be the one the rookies will look up to for this year. Regardless if his production is lacking during the season, it’s not a lost cause to have him spread his knowledge to the locker room freshmen.