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at the guy is going to tell you whether youre good or whether youre bad, but at the e - yuguhun - 07-06-2016 03:56 AM

TORONTO – Around the table sat the future Maple Leafs prospect and his family. Robert Nkemdiche Jersey . One major decision loomed at the time for Andrew MacWilliam, one that would decide his future in many ways. Drafted by the Spokane Chiefs, the teenage defenceman had the option of joining the Western League club as a 16-year-old. Then there was college, the route his father, Alex, preferred – ever the believer in the value of a degree – and the course that would offer a more lenient curve of development. "I never watched college hockey growing up," MacWilliam, a Calgary native said. "Being from western Canada you dont see it much." It took a trip down to Denver, Colorado for the West regional of the 2007 NCAA tournament, a tour of the pristine facilities there and an opportunity to watch Jonathan Toews and Kyle Okposo before a choice was made. Recruited by head coach Dave Hakstol, MacWilliam opted for the hockey-rich program at the University of North Dakota, where he spent the past four seasons before arriving at Leafs training camp this fall. "Probably the best decision of my life so far," MacWilliam stated sincerely of choosing college, where he was voted captain by teammates last year. "I definitely would recommend it to any young guys deciding what route theyre going to take." Selected with the 188th overall pick in the 2008 Draft from the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior League – where he played alongside Joe Colborne – MacWilliam has climbed slow and steady to the edge of the NHL. Now a mature 23-years-old and a thick 230 pounds, the 6-foot-2 defender has definite darkhorse potential for the Leafs this season. A combative protect-the-house type with a penchant for rough play, MacWilliam has offered a positive impression to the Leafs brass and coaching staff in the first week of camp. While still a long-shot to make the NHL club at the outset and more likely pegged to join Steve Spott and the Marlies initially, MacWilliam has not looked out of place in the early going. "I just wanted to show what I can do," he said of expectations coming into camp. "I obviously want to make it a tough decision for the coaching staff. I know theres a lot of numbers [on defence] already up top, but I just wanted to come in and show what I can do and how I can play." MacWilliam has no illusions about his role. His job, quite simply, is to protect the house. He projects as a defender in the Mark Fraser mold, though he probably moves the puck more efficiently than his NHL counterpart and owns better foot speed. Because he remained at North Dakota for the full freight of four years – where he also played alongside former Leaf Matt Frattin – MacWilliam also appears physically ready to play at the next level. At one point in practice on Wednesday, he capably battled for net-front position with Joffrey Lupul, eventually ousting the All-Star to the ice. MacWilliam attributes his solid frame to years of lifting weights at school – where they play in and around 40 games – adding 15 pounds from the point of his freshman year. "Just that extra little oomph I guess is just huge at this level," said MacWilliam, who played in two games with the Marlies at the end of last season. "It helps you out in the net front and in the corners, being able to handle a mans game." Named to the Western College Hockey Associations all-academic team three years straight, MacWilliam also found time to focus his efforts on foot speed, improving his quickness laterally over his junior and senior seasons. Maybe most important to the college experience though was the reward of a degree, which he earned in business management. "Youre not going to play hockey your whole life right," he observed with the savvy of someone far beyond his years. "Youre not guaranteed anything as far as a pro career. Having that to fall back on is something that I take a lot of pride in and down the road will have some use for me." Whether he makes the jump now to the NHL is a question that will decide itself in the coming days of camp. The Leafs have a number of more experienced defenders on the roster and one in Cody Franson who remains unsigned. All of which makes an initial stint with the Leafs unlikely. But if MacWilliam demonstrates continued readiness and progression in the coming two weeks he could just sneak onto the roster or at the very least, provide the club with options to play with on the back-end. "Its been a long five years," MacWilliam concluded of the process that saw him drafted and now on the verge of the NHL. "But they say its not about the destination, its the journey. "The whole process, along the whole way of my career, we havent taken things too fast, we just take it slow and it hasnt hurt me yet." Kurt Warner White Jersey . Speaking to members of the media on Tuesday for the first time since returning home from the Winter Games, Tavares said he will need eight to 12 weeks to fully recover. Adrian Wilson Womens Jersey .C. -- The agent for wide receiver Steve Smith says the five-time Pro Bowl selection has played his final snap for the Carolina Panthers.MANKATO, Minn. -- Whenever Mike Zimmer has felt uneasy about the safety situation on his defence, hes called Chris Crocker to come in and stabilize things. So its no surprise with the safety position opposite standout Harrison Smith up for grabs, Zimmer is bringing back old reliable one more time. Crocker signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, giving Zimmer some much-needed insurance on the unproven back end of his defence. Each of the previous two seasons, as defensive co-ordinator in Cincinnati, Zimmer talked Crocker out of retiring to play for the Bengals. Zimmer also brought Crocker with him when he moved from defensive co-ordinator of the Atlanta Falcons to the Bengals in 2008. Now that Zimmer is in his first season as a head coach with the Vikings, Crocker is again coming back to help him out. "I never retired," said Crocker, who had 37 tackles and two interceptions in 12 games last year. "You always are kind of ready. Especially when you know you got a guy like Zimmer that you can play for. You know we have rapport and we talk often and in this part in my career I wouldnt want to go (with) anyone else. Im not starting over, I wannted to play for a guy who has meant a lot for my career and Ive given him everything that I have. Adrian Wilson Green Jersey. Just empty the gas tank and see where it goes." The position opposite Smith has been in flux since Zimmer took over. Robert Blanton appeared to be in line to be the starter but injured his hamstring during training camp and will likely miss several weeks. Jamarca Sanford missed much of the spring with injury and has yet to impress in training camp. Mistral Raymond has been equally unimpressive to this point and Andrew Sendejo was just activated from the physically unable to perform list on Monday. "Ive given everything I have to him," the 34-year-old Crocker said of Zimmer. "I think Ive been accountable. Thats the biggest thing that Ive not only been accountable, but Ive been a playmaker for him and thats all he can ask for in a player. "From a coaching standpoint hes just so honest and you can really appreciate that the guy is going to tell you whether youre good or whether youre bad, but at the end of the day youre going to know where you stand. Ive always played at the highest level playing for a guy like that." 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