TORONTO– Spencer Abbott is optimistic about the new direction the Toronto Marlies are taking with Steve Spott in charge.
Back in June the Marlies hired Spott to replace Dallas Eakins as the head coach. And unlike Eakins’ tenure, where the belief was a prospect is a prospect regardless of age, Spott has already made it clear the new focus will be on developing the younger players in the system.
“(The organization) is trying to develop young players and I think it makes sense,” said Abbott. “They have good, young talent here and it’s a good play by them. I don’t know (Spott) well but he has a good track record and I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”
Abbott is one of 18 players 25 or younger who will likely start next season with the Marlies, which is a much larger portion of the roster compared to years past when veterans like Mike Zigomanis or Ryan Hamilton were relied on.
Last season, Abbott was one of a handful of rookie skaters Eakins showed faith in. The 25-year-old was kept on the roster during the NHL lockout and by the time the AHL post-season rolled around he was playing on the right wing of the top line. Despite being a healthy scratch to start the year, the Hamilton, Ont. native finished with 13 goals and 33 points in 55 games, which led all Toronto rookies.
“I didn’t get many games in the beginning and I had to bide my time but I got the hang of it after a few games,” said Abbott. “As things went forward I got more comfortable. At the beginning I didn’t have (Eakins) trust yet, he didn’t see me play a whole lot. But I earned it throughout the year and he was supportive and positive.”
With Spott in charge, and even younger players than Abbott expected to fight for playing time, the University of Maine grad knows that top-line right wing slot he held down is up for grabs and nothing is guaranteed. So on Wednesday, he was training at the Master Card Centre in Toronto, trying to bulk up his 5-foot-9 frame.
“Same thing every summer, trying to put on the right weight, get to a weight I can feel comfortable at without taking away my skill or speed,” said Abbott. “I have a fast metabolism. It’s hard to hold the weight on during the season, especially when I wasn’t used to the schedule. I try to eat as much as possible, two meals after my work out, shakes during the day.”
Abbott, who resembles Keith Aucoin on the ice with how he uses his smaller stature to his advantage to create plays, turned pro at just 165 pounds. He eats up to 6000 calories a day and currently weighs 175 pounds but admits, “There are still a few pounds to go.”
With his home close to Toronto, Abbott plans to work out at the MCC throughout the summer for Leafs training camp in September. It will be his first camp since joining the organization as last year’s NHL lockout affected how many prospects got an invite. There, he will not only get his first opportunity to see how he compares to NHL calibre players, he will also be able to showcase himself for Spott.
“Everyone looks forward to (NHL camp),” said Abbott. “You work hard all summer for it and you hope you can prove yourself.”
Abbott is currently a restricted free agent, however he doesn’t think that should hold up his goals when training camp starts.
“Its in the works.”