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The Next Phase of Player Development

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs added to their department of player development on Thursday with a few new acquisitions and role changes.

Steve Staios, initially brought in as the player development advisor, becomes Manager of Player Development within the organization.

“What I hope to accomplish is to develop a detailed and structured plan for each of our individuals. Have an understanding of our players of what it takes to become a Toronto Maple Leaf and the expectations that we have for them," Staios said. “They’ll know right from the beginning what it’s going to take for them to play for us and we’ll state that to them and hold them to that standard."

Scott Pellerin will join Staios as Assistant Manager of Player Development. Pellerin played 536 NHL games with stops that included St. Louis, New Jersey, Dallas, Phoenix, Carolina, Boston and Minnesota.

Shortly after his playing career ended, Pellerin served as an assistant coach of the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate from 2006-2012, and was key in the development of several players who helped the Kings win their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2012.

“It was a huge learning curve for me. But to be able to see those guys and get to the ultimate goal of them winning the cup was quite amazing,” Pellerin said of his time with Los Angeles. "I’ll never forget I was in the locker room after the game and they had the cup. Marc-André Cliche, (Slava) Voynov, and (Alec) Martinez and all these guys that were there and saw me across the room and understood how much work (was put in), there was that mutual respect. To be with them five, six years prior, seeing them come up through the process was pretty amazing and I look to bring a lot of that experience and knowledge here.”

Darryl Belfry joins the department as a Skill Development Consultant. Belfry runs his own camp known as "Pro Playmakers" and has worked with top level athletes including Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, John Tavares and Matt Duchene.

The addition of Belfry shows that the Leafs are adopting a new way of thinking, while developing talent, along with newfound resources not previously made available to the team.

“As I was working with players more intimately, I needed to know what specifically to work on and I didn’t want to do generic skill development. I wanted to do something that can make a large impact on the player immediately,” Belfry said about the creation of his camp. “I found myself doing more analyzing of the athlete to see what is it specifically that he needs, what is the next level? I don’t know until I view it. So I would analyze the games and then I built my own way of measuring the game so that I could pinpoint what that area was going to be so when I shared with the player where I think we can go. I was coming at it from a place of more fact base, than an opinion and a generic model.”

These personnel changes are part of Assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas’s plan to look at developing the team's prospects and give them the best available resources.

“We’ve got those three combined with Gord Dineen’s staff,” Dubas said. "It’s encompassing all of that to make sure that we’re maximizing potential with everybody in our organization, draft picks, playing major-junior, college, Europe, Marlies players, Orlando Solar Bears, so on and so forth."

In addition to these hirings, a new department dedicated to player evaluation was established.

Jim Hughes moves over from his previous role of Director, Player Development, to Director, Player Evaluation. Bobby Carpenter joins him as Coordinator, Player Evaluation.

The plan here is to use everyone at their strengths.

“We found that there was kind of a lag there between when players went to the draft and when they started playing pro again,” Dubas said. “Because our amateur scouts led by Dave Morrisson, their focus was on the draft and when they’re out in major junior and college rinks, they're watching the players that are eligible for the draft. Jim had been out there with Bobby watching our prospects and during that time you got to get his opinion on other prospects and free agents. It was an area we thought we were lagging and Dave (Nonis) thought we were lagging on and we wanted to really address and thought that Jim would be a great person to lead that department."

Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill and Marlies Strength and Conditioning coach Bryan Marshall will also have expanded roles in player development.

“This is nothing innovative or new," Dubas points out. “A lot of organizations are doing this and we’re just trying to arm our prospects at all levels with the very best resources possible."

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