Early in a prospects pro career we find ourselves rewarding 2 areas of an organization for their sucess (or lack there of). First and foremost scouting and secondly managment and their decision on when they’re ready for The NHL. This leads us to overlook development and the hard work put in by an AHL coaching staff, especially Marlies Head Coach Sheldon Keefe.
Obviously we have our homerun picks, when a player jumps straight into the NHL out of their respective leagues based off talent alone, however for the most part draft picks need development qnd guidance.
When Kyle Dubas joined The Toronto Maple Leafs he left behind a SSM Greyhounds Team that he had been GM of since he was 25 but he would not leave alone. Upon signing with The Toronto Maple Leafs he brought Greyhounds Head Coach with him, Sheldon Keefe.
And that’s where our story begins:
In Keefe’s 1st year as Head Coach of The Toronto Marlies (2015/2016) his first development project was that of William Nylander, One of the most highly touted prospects in recent memory (at the time) and his task was to make him a center. Nylander who had joined the Marlies out of The SHL, a year prior would have a lot to prove heading into his 1st full pro year with The Toronto Marlies and he would not disappoint. In just 38 games under Keefe, Nylander had scored 18 goals and 45 points earning himself a callup to The Toronto Maple Leafs to end the 2015-2016 campaign.
In 2016/2017 Keefe was handed a new task, Kasperi Kapanen. Aquired in The Phil Kessel trade Kapanen had really struggled to find his own success, after a 25 point campaign playing with aforementioned Nylander for parts of the 2015/2016 season Kapanen hadn’t found his own success, and Keefe finally pulled it out of him. Kapanen would explode offensively with the promotion of Nylander posting a point a game with 18 goals and 43 points in 43 games.
Following in Kapanen’s footsteps under the guidance of Keefe was 7th round pick Andreas Johnsson also posting a point per game with 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games before earning a spot on The Toronto Maple Leafs roster, something only 10% of 7th round picks accomplish.
Lastly we have this year, current Marlies superstar Jeremy Bracco who has broke multiple franchise records and is on pace to break them all is the perfect example for the work Sheldon Keefe does on and off the ice. In his rookie season with The Marlies last year Bracco struggled for ice time, finding himself on the 4th line or even in the press box at the request of Keefe that he work out more and bulk up. Bracco took flight under Sheldon’s development style and has turned into the player we all see today, and is only getting better.
With at least 3 teams having contacted the Maple Leafs in the last few months requesting permission to interview Sheldon Keefe for their vacant Head Coach Jobs next year, it makes you wonder.
Does Dubas have a little voice in the back of his head telling him to give this guy an NHL shot, whether it be in a assistant’s role or dethroning the highly praised Mike Babcock ? Only time will tell, but Keefe is starting to make news nobody can ignore any longer.