Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews skated in a full practice with his team this morning, but continued to wear the vaunted red jersey rather than his usual blue or white.
For those not aware, red jerseys are reserved for injured players and are meant to signal “no contact” for teammates when running through drills. So, while it looks like Matthews isn’t yet ready to test out his injured shoulder with some physical contact, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock did offer up some encouraging news regarding Matthews’ health today.
That Dallas game, as TSN’s Mark Masters points out is this Thursday at the Air Canada Centre:
This means that the earlier Matthews could be back in the Leafs’ lineup would be Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres, but a Saturday night game against the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada has all the makings of an epic return.
Regardless, the Leafs could use their superstar sniper back as soon as he’s ready. The Leafs have been pretty inconsistent without Matthews in the lineup, going 1-4 in their last five games. In fact, Matthews has yet to make an appearance in the Leafs' lineup since the team's management group went out and acquired veteran centre Tomas Plekanec from the rival Canadiens. With Matthews back in, Babcock could theoretically roll out four lines with Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Plekanec down the middle. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Meanwhile, Matthews had been passed by fellow sophomore Mitch Marner as the Leaf's leading point scorer. Matthews had 24 goals and 50 points in just 53 games, compared to Marner's 19 goals and 56 points in 69 games this season. Oh... and don't look know but the Leafs' other young gun, William Nylander, has 14 goals and 50 points in 69 games, as well.
One thing's for sure, once Matthews gets back into the lineup, the Leafs will boast one of the youngest and most dynamic offences in the entire NHL. Hopefully this group can hit it's stride in time for the playoffs, as it looks like the Leafs will likely face the always dangers Boston Bruins in their opening round playoff series.
Get well soon, Auston!
Leafs’ farm team headed to St. John's
According to a report in the St. John’s Telegram from St. John’s, Newfoundland the ECHL is expected to announce that the city has been chosen as its next expansion location and will begin operations next season.
The yet to be named team could be announced as early as today and it’s also expected that the team will have an affiliation with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Currently the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate is the Orlando Solar Bears, but the league’s expansion into Canada will necessitate a change in affiliations. Of course, the Maple Leafs have a long history in the city of St. John’s, as well. The Leafs housed their AHL farm team, the St. John’s Maple Leafs, in the city for decades before moving them to Toronto as the Marlies back in 2005.
St. John’s last hosted professional hockey with the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL, affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets from 2011 until 2015 and as an affiliate of the Montreal Candiens from 2015 until 2017. The team is now defunct, but the team’s former chief operating officer, Glenn Stanford, is a major reason why St. John’s stands to get a new professional hockey team. Stanford and St. John’s businessman Dean MacDonald are behind the group’s expansion efforts.
St. John’s will join the ECHL as only it’s second Canadian franchise behind the Brampton Beast, ECHL affiliate of the Canadiens. While it has not yet officially been determined, the team will likely be a part of the league’s North Division with the Manchester Monarchs, Adirondack Thunder, Worcester Railers, Reading, Pa., Royals, Wheeling, W.V., Nailers and the Beast.