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TRAVIS DERMOTT TALKS ABOUT SEASON PREP, NEW ARRIVALS, CHALLENGES AHEAD

Less than a day after the Maple Leafs locked up RFA defenseman Travis Dermott for the 2020-21 season, the 23-year-old blueliner met with the media to take some questions on everything ranging from his new contract to potentially playing on the right side to the competition for roster spots, due to the influx of talent in the Maple Leafs' system.

Dermott, who inked a one-year, $874,125 with the Leafs on Friday, is among several Leafs and Marlies that have already begun training hard in preparation for the upcoming season at the Ford Performance Centre, including the likes of Zach Hyman, Jason Spezza and Rich Clune. It's definitely great to see a young player putting in the work and not taking anything for granted, or assuming he owns a spot, simply because he owned one last season. Especially with veteran blueliners TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian coming in, along with a dynamic European veteran in Mikko Lehtonen entering the fold.

"We're going to be that much better with that much more competition, right? It's going to get guys to push each other & really force guys to be their best version of themselves & be prepared come camp time," said Dermott.

Embracing the challenge is great and all, but knowing what's expected of him on a nightly basis is what will make or break this season for Dermott, who is facing a huge "prove it" test with his one year deal, before earning arbitration rights next offseason. The youngster seems to have a pretty good handle on the situation.

"[Sheldon] Keefer knows how I play when I'm at my best & I know how I play when I'm at my best, so I think that's what they expect from me. Anything less & there's guys biting at my heels to get in & steal my job", he commented. "It's playing hard & not playing tentatively. It's using my feet, skating fast, but making sure my defensive stuff is done first & from there you're kind of moving forward".

Keefe knows the value of having Dermott in the lineup, having relied on him heavily at times last season, while key defensemen were dealing with injuries at various points throughout the year. He eluded to Dermott's importance during an interview on Oct 7th.

"There's a lot of great things that Derms does for us & we just need to see a level of consistency and reliability to be there. That's a part of the process for most young players & that's where he's at," said Keefe. "He's shown at different times when key people were injured that he's able to step up & we were able to win games against very good teams with him playing a prominent role, so that potential is there and he's shown it, so just a matter of that continuing to develop," he continued.



With the rigors of a contract negotiation behind him and the threat of other blueliners challenging for a spot out of training camp ahead of him, Dermott isn't only focused on the potential for a setback. He's also excited about the additions to the team. In particular, the arrival of Joe Thornton.

"I'm really excited to meet him [Thornton]. It's going to be really cool to have him on the bench beside me. [He's] definitely a guy I never thought I'd be playing with. Someone that I definitely grew up watching a lot."

There's no doubt that a veteran like Thornton will be able to teach the youngsters [like Dermott] a thing or two about what it takes to have longevity and success in the sport. His 1,636 games of NHL experience and his 1,509 points are evidence to support that theory. In fact, Thornton had already played 17 seasons in the NHL by Dermott's draft year (2015).

All things considered, Dermott looks every bit the part of an NHL defenseman and should hold a regular position in the lineup, especially if the Leafs decide to ice 7 defensemen with any sort of regularity - a luxury that the club has not really had in recent memory.

See TSN's Mark Masters' thread for more info:

MIKE ARMENTI
OCTOBER 24, 2020  (13H52)
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