Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe likes what he’s seen from his team at practice ahead of two back-to-back games against the Albany Devils.
Toronto (2-0-0) will host the 0-1-0 Devils on Saturday as they continue a four-game homestand to begin its season at Ricoh Coliseum.
“I feel pretty good,” said the bench boss outside Toronto’s dressing room Friday. “There’s been a long, long stretch here with no game action, so I’m sure the guys are anxious to get playing.
“I tried to keep it short today, but I think we got a lot done this week, so I’m anxious to see how it transfers to a game.”
Among the players Keefe was happy with during two wins over the Manitoba Moose last week is first-year pro Zach Hyman.
The 23-year-old Hyman played his last four seasons with the University of Michigan while obtaining a degree in history before making the jump to the professional level. In his first game as a Marlie last Friday, the Toronto, Ont., native recorded an assist in the team’s 5-3 win over Manitoba.
“I think he’s done terrific right from the start of Leafs training camp,” said Keefe. “He’s an older player, coming in as a first-year pro, so he’s more physically developed and you can see that.
“He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s on the puck. In terms of how both the Leafs and the Marlies want to play, he’s a guy who has a lot of the necessary skills and the necessary work ethic that you need to play that way, so he’s been excellent and he’s made a lot of fans in the organization for sure.”
Hyman played with Byron Froese and Richard Panik in the two games against the Moose, a line that the coach thought was the best throughout the two-game set.
The six-foot forward was skating with Froese and Kasperi Kapanen at practice Friday and that will likely be who he plays with on Saturday.
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“I’ve been playing with them,” said Hyman after practice Friday.
“I played with Frasie (Froese) the last two games and then Kappy (Kapanen) I played with a little bit during some exhibition games with the Leafs, and they’re both really good players, they’re both fast, both strong.”
Like his coach, the 180-pound forward was pleased with his game early in the campaign, however, has goals to continually improve.
“Just build on last week, just try to get better every game and I think that as I build chemistry with the guys we should get better,” said Hyman.
Building chemistry should come easy as the 2010 Florida Panthers draft pick hasn’t had a problem settling in to his new surroundings.
Over the summer I was training at the Master Card Centre, so I already knew a lot of them,” said Hyman. “(I) met a lot of them earlier, so that’s a pretty easy transition, and then obviously with the Leafs training camp, a lot of the guys were up there.
“I was with them for about a month there too, so that definitely helps with the transition and everybody is great here, so it’s really easy to get along with everybody.”