Maple Leafs' prospect Cade Webber is no gentle giant

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You’re going to notice Cade Webber because he’s a giant.

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At 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, the defenceman stands out at the Maple Leafs development camp this week at the Ford Performance Centre.

If you’re looking for some flash in the 23-year-old, however, you’re going to have to find it somewhere else.

And there’s no other way that Webber would have it.

“I take pride in being that defensive defenceman, blocking shots, doing the unsexy things,” Webber said on Thursday. “That’s a big thing here. I know that they’re going to put all they can into developing me. I know this is just the beginning. I have a ton of more work to do. I’m looking forward to that.”

When the Leafs signed Webber in April to a two-year entry-level contract after acquiring his rights from the Carolina Hurricanes a month earlier, it was another indication of the change in philosophy that general manager Brad Treliving brought when he was hired last year. Defencemen who are big and long and do their jobs with physical passion? Treliving is a fan.

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The same could apply to Leafs first-rounder Ben Danford, who was voted the top defensive defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference this past season.

In finishing his NCAA career at Boston University in 2023-24, Webber was named Hockey East’s best defensive defenceman.

“It took a while,” Webber said. “A couple of years ago at school, I didn’t really know what kind of defenceman I wanted to be. I was in the middle.

“I decided that in order to make it to the next level I have to be hard on guys, make simple plays. Using my reach, making it hard on opposing forwards, just being a tough guy, that steady guy. I think I’ve taken a huge step.”

Upon being signed, Webber, originally a fourth-round pick by Carolina in 2019, joined the Leafs and took part in morning skates and practices. The brief glimpse at National Hockey League life made its mark.

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“It was awesome,” Webber said. “Learning from those guys, how they handle themselves every day, how much work they put into it.
“It taught me how big the jump is and how much work I’m going to have to put in (during) the summer to hopefully get to that point one day. Guys are harder to knock off pucks. I’ve been working on that.”


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Victor Johansson figured there was a chance that he was going to get drafted.

A chance, yes, but not a big one.

“Not at all or seventh round,” Johansson said. “I didn’t expect (the Leafs) to draft me. There was a chance that they were drafting me and I didn’t know that I was going to go fourth round. I didn’t have that on my mind.”

So what happened last Saturday when Johansson — who was not among international skaters in NHL central scouting’s final rankings — learned the Leafs took him in the fourth round at 120th?

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“I was at home (in Leksand, Sweden) with my parents,” Johansson said. “My dad just started screaming. My mom just started to cry. I didn’t know how to react. It was just amazing.

“I can’t explain it with words, it was just fantastic.”

Leafs Nation was abuzz when the 6-foot-1 Johansson’s weight was posted as 143 pounds. Some hockey websites have him listed as heavier than that, but he said on Thursday he’s presently tipping the scales at 147 pounds.

No one needs to tell the 18-year-old defenceman that he needs to bulk up, though he should be on the path to doing as much.

Two of his older brothers, Simon and Anton, are NHL draft picks and have some meat on their bones. Simon is 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds and was drafted in 2018 by Minnesota; Anton is 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds and was drafted in 2022 by Detroit.

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“The physical play is not the thing (in Sweden) so it’s kind of easier over there,” Johansson said of managing with his skinny frame. “Here, I guess it’s a little bit harder. But I think I can get the game.

“Everything I can get in my stomach is good. When I get home, I’m going to eat a pizza.”


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Former defenceman Jake Muzzin, now a pro scout with the Leafs, has been running some on-ice drills with the prospects. “He’s that the guy I want to model myself after a little bit,” Webber said. “After I was traded here, he called me and introduced himself and we’ve been back and forth, little teaching points about my game. I’m trying to pick up everything I can from him. He’s had a great career, long career, and he won (the Stanley Cup). That’s a good guy to look up to.” … Forward Nikita Grebenkin is at camp but not yet taking part in on-ice activities as he recovers from a minor injury … Forward Miroslav Holinka, taken 151st by the Leafs last Saturday, had his name called in the Canadian Hockey League import draft on Wednesday. Holinka was picked 14th overall by the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League … Rob Davison, who was an assistant coach with the Marlies from 2017-2021, has been hired by the Guelph Storm of the OHL as an associate coach.

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