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‘We called him Shaq Hyman’: Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe talks about Zach Hyman’s style of play

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
19 days ago
Zach Hyman and Sheldon Keefe go way back. Like, way back.
Before signing with the Edmonton Oilers in 2021, Hyman spent six years in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, and he first crossed paths with Keefe during his one and only season with the Toronto Marlies. He later spent parts of two seasons under Keefe in the NHL after the Leafs fired Mike Babcock as their head coach.
Hyman scored 15 goals and 37 points in 59 games with the Marlies in the 2015-16 regular season and added three goals and six points in 15 playoff contests that year. He also appeared in his first 16 NHL games with the Leafs, scoring four goals and six points.
What immediately endeared Keefe to Hyman at the AHL level was the Toronto-born winger’s willingness to go to the dirty areas to score — something he’s been able to do to a far greater extent with the Oilers while playing alongside Connor McDavid.
“When I was with the Marlies, we called him ‘Shaq Hyman’, because he got to the paint better than anybody,” Keefe said ahead of Saturday’s game between the Oilers and Leafs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. “Now he’s playing with the guy that gets the puck to the paint and tilts the ice more than anybody maybe in the history of the game. It’s a good fit.”
Later on Saturday, Hyman credited former Marlies assistant coach A.J. MacLean with coming up with the nickname and pointed out just how many members of that 2015-16 team are now with the Oilers today.
“Throwback!” Hyman exclaimed when a reporter first brought up the nickname. “Yeah, that was my first year of pro. Actually, a bunch of guys here, like Connor Brown, Sammy Carrick were on that team.”
Hyman has come awfully close to Shaq levels of production in his third season with the Oilers. The 31-year-old forward has 48 goals and 67 points in just 66 games with the team this year and is on the verge of his first 50-goal season in the NHL.
Originally drafted by the Florida Panthers back in 2010, Hyman never signed with the team and was traded to the Leafs in 2015. Through 566 career games over parts of nine NHL seasons with the Leafs and Oilers, Hyman has racked up 197 goals and 389 points; he’s added 19 goals and 40 points in 60 playoff contests.
The Leafs and Oilers are slated to go head-to-head in a Hockey Night in Canada clash on Saturday night at 5:00 p.m. MT.

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