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Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner and coach Keefe seeing eye to eye – Toronto Sun



Sheldon Keefe knows what Mitch Marner is thinking when the Maple Leafs’ star winger makes eye contact on the bench.

“He gives you a little look over his shoulder wondering if he’s next or if he’s not, a ‘why-aren’t-I’ kind of thing,” Keefe, the Leafs coach, said on Friday. “Those are the cues you look for from players, especially your best guys. You’re trying to gauge whether they are tired. Sometimes if they’re tired, they don’t want the next shift and they’re telling you by not giving you the eye contact, that they need a little bit more of a breather.

“When a player give you the eyes he’s telling you ‘I’m ready, so don’t slow this down anymore. Let’s get this going.’”

Does the 22-year-old Marner, whose energy seems boundless, get tired? Keefe wasn’t sure.

“It’s a great question, because it doesn’t appear that he does, frankly,” Keefe said. “He’s very smart with how he conserves his energy, seems to be in great shape and seems to be able to go forever, whether it’s the power-play minutes or the penalty-kill minutes. Sometimes they overlap and there’s not much downtime there for him, but he seems to be able to go.”

Keefe has been using his star players more often than Mike Babcock did and that strategy is providing positive results. In Marner’s case, the ice time has gone to 22 minutes a game from 19 minutes 39 seconds under Babcock (including the game against Philadelphia on Nov. 9 when Marner played 7 1/2 minutes before he was hurt).

Marner had 18 points in 18 games with Babcock as coach. With Keefe, Marner has 32 points in 22 games.

How much has the increased ice time helped in Marner’s production?

“A lot,” Marner said. “Being on the ice more, you get more opportunities to score and you get used to playing against certain people and find out their tendencies and I think it helps.

“There are times when (he gets tired), but I try to make sure that my conditioning throughout the year is always at the top level.”

Michael Hutchinson will start in goal for the Leafs against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night.

It will be the first start for Hutchinson since Jan. 4, when he made 33 saves in a 3-0 shutout against the visiting New York Islanders. Since, Hutchinson came off the bench to twice relieve Frederik Andersen (on Jan. 6 against Edmonton and on Jan. 12 against Florida) and was saddled with the loss both times.

Fans shouldn’t be thinking it will be guaranteed-win night against a Senators team that will be on the second game of a back-to-back after playing host to the Washington Capitals on Friday night. The Sens are 3-4-2 in the second game of back to backs this season.

“It’s always a team that works hard every night, never takes night off and never takes a shift off,” Marner said, recognizing the kind of work ethic coach D.J. Smith demands from his players. “It’s going to be a hard match and we know that going into it. We have to make sure we’re ready.”

Defenceman Travis Dermott did not practise on Friday because he was sick. Keefe said he was not sure whether Dermott will play against the Senators. If not, Martin Marincin will return to the lineup after sitting out the past two games.

The Leafs recalled defenceman Kevin Gravel from the Toronto Marlies, but the move was made to have another body on the ice at the Ford Performance Centre. Later in the day, Gravel was loaned back to the Marlies.

The Leafs and Senators have not squared off since the 2019-20 regular-season opener, won 5-3 by the Leafs in Toronto.

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool



Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics



Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?



It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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