James O'Brien

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews celebrates onstage with Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello after being selected first overall during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Maple Leafs seem giddy about Auston Matthews


TORONTO (AP) Brooks Laich has seen top draft picks blossom in the NHL.

With the Washington Capitals, he watched Alex Ovechkin burst onto the scene in 2005. Now with the Toronto Maple Leafs some 11 years later, he has a ringside seat for Auston Matthews‘ debut.

The 19-year-old forward, the No. 1 overall pick this summer, turned heads at the World Cup of Hockey on a Team North American line with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele.

“It puts a big smile on your face,” Laich, a 12-year veteran, said about watching Matthews. “I see a lot of little things in his game, habits that you don’t generally see in young players.”

Those include his positioning, the way he competes for the puck and his shot release. From Scottsdale, Arizona, Matthews played last season in Switzerland.

Leafs center Nazem Kadri has also seen Matthews play from the Air Canada Centre stands.

“(He’s) obviously high-level skill,” he said. “(He) can skate, he’s big. So he’s only going to get better. Obviously, with that 82-game season, it’s going to be a little difficult but I think he’s going to be more than ready for it.”

Leafs management already likes what it sees.

“There’s no question he has a bright future,” GM Lou Lamoriello said. “It’s just exciting to see him play. But I think the most exciting thing is to know he’s ours.”

Laich reminded reporters asking about Matthews that the team comes first.

“This isn’t an individual sport,” he said. “This isn’t a tennis or a golf where everything comes down to one person. Auston’s a great player from what I’ve seen. But there’s also going to be 22 other great players in this room.

“So as a young guy, he’s got enough pressure on himself. He puts, I’m sure, enough pressure on himself. You don’t get to be where he is already without having an internal drive like that. So we don’t need to put anything else on him. We want to make him a member of the team, we want to treat him like the other 22 guys.”

“The logo comes first. I’m sure Auston will tell you that.”

The Leafs begin on-ice activities at training camp Friday in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sens’ Mark Stone is dealing with a concussion

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 21: Canada and USA teams exchange the words, while Mark Stone #61 of Canada lies on ice injured at Ice Palace on May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher announced that forward Mark Stone has been diagnosed with a concussion.

The team didn’t provide additional details regarding the severity of the injury, merely stating that “his progress will be evaluated daily.” He left a training camp session early on Friday.

At the moment, it’s unclear how or when Stone was injured.

As much as training camps are about fresh starts and optimism (justified or not), they are also times where teams get a chance to look at players for the first time in a while. Sometimes that means encountering or discovering unfortunate news.

Other tough injury/health news

P.K. Subban deals with upper-body injury

Matt Murray is out three-to-six weeks

Tomas Fleischmann’s training camp is already over

No Wild training camp for Fleischmann after failed physical

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: Tomas Fleischmann #12 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on April 5, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Coyotes 6-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Tomas Fleischmann won’t take part in the Minnesota Wild’s training camp after all.

The 32-year-old forward failed a physical heading into those proceedings, putting an end to his PTO.

As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, the team didn’t reveal details of his failed physical, although it’s worth mentioning that Fleischmann has been dealing with blood clot issues for some time.

One cannot help but wonder if this is it for Fleischmann’s career.

That said, his agent stated that eight teams (the Wild included) batted around the idea of a PTO for “Flash,” so perhaps someone else will give him another chance.

Fleischmann played 76 regular season games between his time with the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks in 2015-16, managing a respectable 25 points.

Fleischmann isn’t the only veteran forward to fail a physical heading into training camp, as Jiri Tlusty was unable to pass the Colorado Avalanche’s tests, according to the Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

Broken hand sidelines Matt Murray for 3-6 weeks

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 19: John Gibson #36 of Team North America replaces Matthew Murray #30 in net during the second period against Team Russia during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins presented bad news on Saturday: Matt Murray is expected to miss anywhere between three-to-six weeks because of a broken hand.

He suffered the injury while representing Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey on Sept. 19.

Murray joins Tyler Seguin and others on a list of injuries that likely leaves some NHL GMs grumbling about the risks associated with participating in the tournament.

Even if Murray doesn’t miss a ton of regular season time, it stands to mention that the Penguins are likely relieved that they didn’t trade one of their goalie options (yet?).

For Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s a head start on wrestling back the top job after injuries scuttled his own chances late in 2015-16.


Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said that Murray won’t be rushed back to action. The best news is that it doesn’t look like he’ll need surgery.

Dan Girardi isn’t worried about ‘doubters’

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in action in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Hopefully, for the sake of Dan Girardi‘s sanity, he doesn’t hear all of the heckling.

The often-criticized New York Rangers defenseman is aware that he has plenty of critics and hopes to bounce back in 2016-17.

That doesn’t mean he necessarily loses sleep about it, as the New York Daily News reports.

“I want to come out here and prove I can play,” Girardi said. “I know I’ve got a lot of doubters out there, but I’m not really worried about what’s getting said around here or anywhere else. I’m worried about myself, the team and what I can do to help the team. Just play the best I can and not worry about anything else.”

In some quarters, Marc Staal also absorbs at least a portion of the heat that Girardi receives. Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told the media that some rest did both blueliners some good.

“I can tell you what I’ve seen so far [at workouts], you can tell when you talk to them they’ve turned the page on the past and they’re focused on right now,” Vigneault said, according to Newsday. “They seem to be in a good space mentally.”

In other words, they’re probably not staring at things like their ghastly HERO charts:*

The preseason is a time that’s rife with optimism, and really, wouldn’t it be kind of weird if players moped their way into October?

It’s tough to imagine Girardi silencing his critics in 2016-17, but it’s plausible that he could get in his coach’s good graces. If nothing else, his biggest haters could at least root for the blueliner to pump up his trade value.

* – Hey, at least Staal’s chart was prettier to look at just a few years ago.