Leafs note­book: Lil­je­gren pairs up with Der­mott

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - KEVIN MCGRAN SPORTS REPORTER

NI­A­GARA FALLS, ONT.— First-round pick Ti­mothy Lil­je­gren has been paired with Mar­lies de­fence­man Travis Der­mott so far in train­ing camp.

Both are good skaters, and seen as puck-mov­ing de­fence­men.

“He’s a strong skater, he talks a lot and he wants the puck as well,” Lil­je­gren said of Der­mott. “I think we have good chem­istry. I try to call for the puck when I have a chance to do some­thing. He calls for the puck when I’m stuck, so I give it to him.”

Der­mott, deemed the Leafs’ top de­fen­sive prospect with Mar­lies, says he has en­joyed pair­ing with Lil­je­gren.

“He’s a player that doesn’t take too long to get used to,” Der­mott said of Lil­je­gren. “A very skilled guy. He un­der­stands his sur­round­ings. If I’m open, he’ll find me.” PHONE HOME: Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock says he stays away from hockey talk when he chats with play­ers over the phone in the off-sea­son.

“I try to touch base with them, I try never to talk about hockey at all, un­til later in the sum­mer, catch up and see how they’re do­ing,” said Bab­cock. “I got young peo­ple in my house, they leave and they like it when peo­ple talk to them. Peo­ple like to be talked to and know that you care about them and I like our guys and care about them and want them to do well so I like to touch base.” NEW DAD: De­fence­man Nikita Zait­sev’s ab­sence from Friday’s camp — ex­plained by Bab­cock as a “mid­dle-body” is­sue — be­came clearer Saturday when Zait­sev’s agent an­nounced the de­fence­man be­came a fa­ther. His wife, Margo, gave birth to daugh­ter Vera. LEARN­ING CURVE: Carl Grund­strom, who fin­ished the sea­son with the Mar­lies dur­ing their play­off run last year, says he un­der­stands if the Leafs have to send him back to Frol­unda of the Swedish Hockey League.

“Frol­unda has been good at help­ing me de­velop,” said Grund­strom. “We did a lot this past year. They are a re­ally good club for young play­ers.”

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