Maple Leafs’ path to raising bar begins at training camp

TORONTO – Well, this is a bit different.

This is a group being pegged the Stanley Cup favourite by Vegas bookies and NHL stars alike – an unfamiliar place for an organization that has gone more than 14 years since last playing beyond the first round.

It is due to the sharp progression of the last two campaigns and the arrival of John Tavares, who is still being celebrated more than two months after returning home on a $77-million, seven-year contract. Camp will bring his first game as a Maple Leaf, and potentially his first goal, and should feel like an extended touchdown dance in a city where many folks are still coming around to the idea that his decision in free agency wasn’t just a dream.

As the Leafs reported for medicals at their suburban practice facility on Thursday morning, there was enough hoopla to quiet the only story with any real news value at the outset of this camp: The whereabouts of William Nylander.

The 22-year-old winger isn’t here, as expected, after failing to agree on a new contract over the off-season. He was a notable omission on the list of 73 invited players released by the team on Wednesday afternoon.

“Marleau, Marner, Matthews … Mueller, O’Brien,” it read.

Now, the only way this becomes something more than a footnote is if Nylander remains absent in the days leading up to the Oct. 3 regular-season opener against Montreal.

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Source:: Sportsnet


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