TORONTO– When the Toronto Maple Leafs organization made changes to their coaching staff in late June, relieving Keith Acton after nine years of service, no one knew what sort of affect it could have on prospect Will Acton heading into this year’s prospects camp; except maybe for Will himself.
“When I came here to the Marlies in the spring, we (Keith & Will) had a pretty good talk about it. We just said we were going to have everything separate and we were going to be professional about it and not talk about anything,” said Acton after Team Whites 5-2 victory against Team Blue. “With things happening over the last couple weeks, obviously I feel for him. He’s my dad, I love and care for him and wish him the best but for me right now, this week I have enough going on for me to concentrate on and worry about.”
Since the age of 15, Acton knew his father as the assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And while Keith battled night in and night out at the Air Canada Centre, Will grinded out four seasons playing Ontario Junior A for his hometown Stouffville Spirit. He followed up his tenure with the Spirit with four more years at Lake Superior State University where he continued his development, earning Most Improved Player twice.
“Obviously I grew up with my dad doing what he was doing. He played and coached for a pretty long time and spending time with my dad seemed to be always talking hockey and it kind of developed into a passion over the years” said Acton when discussing his father’s influence .
Never being drafted, Acton by no means gave up his dream to play pro hockey and battled each game while in University and in March he was rewarded an amateur try-out (ATO) with the Leafs organization.
After signing on with the Leafs, he briefly spent some time with the East Coast Hockey League’s Reading Royals before playing five games with the Toronto Marlies to finish last season.
With this week being a fresh start and a great opportunity to impress GM Brian Burke and his staff, Acton knows he needs to be sharp on every shift. He also knows what he has to do to compete at his top performance.
“Right now my focus is to play hard in this camp do as best as I can, battle until the fall and take it day by day. I think I’m a guy of decent skill, I can skate pretty well. I use my speed when I can and try to fill minutes.”
At this point in time it is unclear whether Acton will start the season with the Royals or the Marlies. Either way, he knows he can always turn to a former Leafs assistant anytime he needs advice on what he should be doing.
“I’m calling him all the time, touching basis with him at night, getting pointers. He’s always had the ability to hear my thoughts and translate that to how I’m playing even if he hasn’t seen me play that day. I lean on him for everything. We have a father son relationship, were close in that sense.”
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