Maple Leafs Forward Pontus Holmberg battling against the Detroit Red Wings
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Sheldon Keefe Gives Ultimatum To Rookie Forward

Published March 5, 2024 at 10:11 PM

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been playing their best hockey of the season lately. However, Sheldon Keefe is not thrilled about how everyone is playing individually. Recently, he had a long conversation with one of the team's rookies.

Keefe Addresses Issues With Holmberg's Game

The coach has specifically not been super thrilled with the way rookie forward Pontus Holmberg has been playing lately. He sat down with the 24-year-old to go over a few things he can improve in his game in order to remain a regular feature in the Leafs lineup as the team enters the most critical stretch of the season. He specifically noted how Holmberg needs to improve defensively.

In the last couple of games, as we have come back from the road trip — while we have liked his line, liked his game, and we believe in him — he has slipped a little bit. On the first goal, in particular, he had an opportunity to kill a play early for us before they had a chance to get anywhere near our net. It is the type of play that I expect all of our players to manage in that situation, particularly for a young, hungry guy who is looking to solidify his place on the team and in the league. That is a spot that he has to be great in. He wasn't.

Holmberg has been in the lineup more often than not this season, as he has played in 35 of the team's 61 games. He has three goals and 11 points to show for his efforts, including one of the best goals of the season scored by any player.

Holmberg Looking To Create Bigger Role For Himself With Leafs

All of that being said, Holmberg has played mostly in a 4th line role with the team even when he does get into the lineup this season. A big part of the reason for this is his defensive deficiencies, as Keefe alluded to in his discussion with the rookie. If he wants to earn a bigger role with the team, he will need to work on his 200-foot game. he is averaging just over 11 minutes of ice time per game this season. But with a little work and determination, he can become a core player, if not a reliable 3rd line scorer for the team for years to come. He has certainly showed off the skill to be a regular NHL player.

The playoffs will be a big test for the rookie as he will likely be a healthy scratch many times should the team go on a deep run. However, it will also be an opportunity for him to prove himself in big moments, similar to how Matthew Knies did last season in the playoffs.

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March 5   |   647 answers
Sheldon Keefe Gives Ultimatum To Rookie Forward

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