The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has signed defenceman Filip Kral to a three-year entry level contract and defenceman Kristians Rubins to a two-year entry level contract.
Kral, 20, appeared in 54 games with the Spokane Chiefs (WHL) during the 2019-20 season and registered 49 points (12 goals, 37 assists), which ranked second among Spokane defenceman and tied for 10th among WHL defenders. In 154 career WHL regular season games, Kral has recorded 120 points (31 goals, 89 assists), while adding a pair of assists in 17 career WHL playoff games. He represented the Czech Republic at both the 2018 and 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships.
Kral was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the fifth round (149th overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft.
Rubins, 22, appeared in 47 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) during the 2019-20 season and registered 14 points (two goals, 12 assists). In 2018-19, he split his season between the Marlies and the Newfoundland Growlers (ECHL). The Riga, Latvia native recorded three assists in 15 games with the Marlies in 2018-19, while recording two goals and 16 assists in 56 games with the Growlers. Rubins skated in 17 playoff games with Newfoundland and recorded a goal and two assists, capturing the Kelly Cup in the franchise’s inaugural season.
Rubins originally joined the Maple Leafs organization on August 3, 2018 after signing an ECHL contract with the Newfoundland Growlers. He signed his first AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies on October 31, 2018 and was re-signed by the club on July 3, 2019.
Anyone who has spent any time around Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri, knows his approach to a task. It’s identify the goal, get an understanding of the task at hand to the fullest, and then go at it with everything you have. It’s the kind of approach that landed the Raptors Kawhi Leonard for a season and ultimately pushed the franchise to an NBA championship. And while that approach applies to the basketball team he oversees, it also applies to everything else in his life. So it’s really not a surprise that in a 30-minute or so call with the media that covered his team, Ujiri had little to say about anything basketball related. As close as the game is to his heart, right now it’s just not uppermost of mind. His focus is on the current pandemic, just like it would be if the task in front of him were a Game 7, he wants a win. Typical of most of his responses was this one to a question about using this down time in his basketball work to perhaps address his own extension with the Raptors or even that of head coach Nick Nurse. “No, to be fair that’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “Me certainly, this is a crucial time I think for the world and those things will come,” Ujiri said. “I’m fine. We’re fine. Honestly those are the last things on my mind. I miss the game. I miss basketball. But I have concerns for my team, concerns for my family, and concerns for the world. I have concerns about this pandemic and how we beat it, how we fight it. We have to win this one. In the business of basketball, that one (a contract extension for Ujiri) is the last (concern).” Rather than stalking the next draft pick and doing his normally thorough due diligence on a player which is what he would usually be doing this time of year, Ujiri joked he’s spending his time stalking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has had his hands full correcting the always-challenged president of the United States on the subject of the coronavirus. Even the question of whether or not Ujiri thought the NBA season could be salvaged and if so what that might look like was quickly brought back to the real crisis we’re all now facing. “I’m hoping (the season can be salvaged),” Ujiri said. “That’s all of our hope. We love our game and we love what we do. Honestly, for now, I think we salvage the NBA season is by abiding by the rules and doing everything that we have to do as people, as a community, everything we possibly can. This is not about the NBA, NBA players, NBA fans. It’s about the whole world. “This is something that hit globally,” Ujiri said. “This is not an earthquake that hit in only one part of the world or a disease that is only in another part of the world or a tsunami — pardon me for mentioning all of these things. But this is affecting the whole world. We can want to plan the NBA all we want, and (want) it to come back all we want. Because it affects the whole world, something is going to stall that one way or the other, because we have not played by the rules.” None of this is to say that Ujiri is ignoring his responsibilities as the president and CEO of the Raptors. He spends his days in his home on the phone — web calls, video calls with his players, with his management team, with other team heads and NBA front office types ensuring the people in his care are first of all healthy and the game he loves remains functioning. Then there are calls with various heads of state around the world ensuring his Giants of Africa interests and his work with Basketball Without Borders doesn’t fall by the wayside while the world deals with his pandemic. It’s a lot and it’s time consuming and to hear Ujiri tell it, it’s all just a little too much all at once. But he soldiers on and does what he can to keep the people he lives with, the people he works with and the game he loves in as good a position as it can possibly be in these trying times. And then just when you start to feel it might all be a little overwhelming for a man who does not get overwhelmed, Ujrii finds a silver lining in all of it. “It’s been a lot but it’s also been good to be able to go between phone calls to do my daughter’s homework with her or play with my son, you know, or spend time with the family,” he said. And just like that he makes you feel a little bit better about our irregular lives during these pandemic days. DIFFERENT TIMES If you’re sitting at home unsure even what day it is, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. “I’ve lost where the other world is,” Raptors president and CEO Masai Ujiri said when asked what he would be doing on April 1st in more normal times. “I’m so into this (pandemic) world right now and trying to adjust,’ he said. “April 1? I think, I might be wrong, but this might be time when (Raptors director of player personnel and assisant GM) Dan Tolzman is dragging me to the McDonald’s game and the Hoop Summit might be coming up now. “I think that these are the times when those (games) come up and we kind of start to round up our outside scouting,” Ujrii said. “It’s also a time we hit Europe, if I remember well. Final Four, we’re getting ready for the combine, those kind of things. Those are not there anymore.” No everyone’s normal is a little off these day. Ujiri was on the road scouting when the Raptors finished up a west-coast road trip in Utah against the Jazz and first official NBA positive test victim Rudy Gobert. Like his team, he came straight home and hasn’t left his house since, except to get tested as all the team did in those earliest of the pandemic days in North America. His days now are one phone call after another after another. At this point the day of the week really is irrelevant.
MILWAUKEE — The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks remain confident the coronavirus pandemic won’t put a permanent halt to the season and that they’ll get to resume chasing their first league title in nearly half a century.
The Bucks had a league-best 53-12 record when play was suspended three weeks ago. With Giannis Antetokounmpo having a a potential second straight MVP season, the Bucks seemed poised to make a run at the title that has eluded this franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to an NBA championship in 1971.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst thinks they will get that opportunity.
“We believe that we’re going to play,” Horst said Wednesday in a conference call. “Everything that we’re doing every day in our communications, in our preparations, everything we talk about is being prepared to play at some point, finish out the season and have a resumption.”
That’s why Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer has spent part of this hiatus making sure the Bucks don’t lose their edge whenever they do get back on the floor.
He’s been studying the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets — the Bucks’ two most likely first-round playoff foes — as well as other Eastern Conference teams Milwaukee could see later in the postseason. He’s tried to learn from his experiences as a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach during the NBA’s most recent work stoppages.
“One of my reference points with the coaching staff has been lockouts,” Budenholzer said. “Sometimes when you come out of a lockout, things have been kind of slow, you haven’t been able to maybe do your normal routines and preparation, and things happen really fast. Whether it’s three games in three nights, or playoff series are shorter or the time between the end of the regular season to the first playoff game, everything can be shorter or can happen quicker.’’
His instructions to his players have focused on conditioning while understanding they might not have as much time to spend working on their basketball skills.
“I think that we feel that there are things they can continue to do as far as continuing to stay strong, continuing to maintain a conditioning level and really just put a lot of time and effort and energy into their bodies,” Budenholzer said.
After blowing a 2-0 lead to the eventual league champion Toronto Raptors in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, Milwaukee appeared to have all the elements in place to make a serious championship run this year before the pandemic struck.
The Bucks had just returned from a winless three-game trip west when the hiatus occurred, but that was the first time they had lost as many as two straight contests all season.
Despite their optimism and their confidence that league officials will do what’s best for the safety of everyone, the Bucks realize that play might not resume. However, Budenholzer said they aren’t thinking about what impact canceling the season might have.
“If for some reason this season is not played or there’s nothing to look forward to or to complete, I’ll process it then,” Budenholzer said. “I would add that I don’t think it’s being totally head-in-the-sand. I think hopefully watching news, listening to the commissioner, listening to whether it be Tony Fauci or Dr. (Deborah) Birx or whoever it is, it does feel like there is I think some realistic hope and belief that we will get through this.
“I know that there are some negatives, some less optimistic modeling, but literally all we think about is we are going to play and we want to be the best team when we do play so how do we prepare for that, how do we get better? It’s a great way to get through this.’’
Texas Rangers DH/OF Shin-Soo Choo is pitching in with some supplemental help, however, and is going to give each of the 190 players in the Texas Rangers minor league system a check for $1,000. That’s according to South Korean news service Naver Sports. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has confirmed the report.
It’s been three weeks since the NBA indefinitely suspended the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 scare, leaving game-day staff without their usual paychecks. Kevin Love, however, wasn’t about to watch them walk away empty-handed. One day after the season was put on hold, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward donated $100,000 of his own money through the…
t’s been three weeks since the NBA indefinitely suspended the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 scare, leaving game-day staff without their usual paychecks. Kevin Love, however, wasn’t about to watch them walk away empty-handed. One day after the season was put on hold, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward donated $100,000 of his own money through the Kevin Love Fund to help support game-day staff at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Since then, several other NBA players have followed suit with their respective teams. Love said he could not stop thinking about the impact the suspended season would have on the game-day employees, whom he frequently interacted with. So deciding to donate was a no-brainer. “A lot of these people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Love said on Tuesday’s episode of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” “And these are people that are a part of not only my story, but the Cavs organization. And you start to develop a first-first-name relationship with these people and start to ask about their family. You see them when you come into the arena, you see them when you leave the arena. So I thought it was important to just take care of people that have taken care of me (for) so long and are a part of the story both on and off the floor.”