The Toronto Maple Leafs will be testing out their offseason turnover at the centre position earlier than expected.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe announced on Monday that Leafs star Auston Matthews will be out for the first three games of their season.
— Mike Zeisberger (@Zeisberger) October 11, 2021
Matthews, 24, underwent surgery to repair a wrist injury this summer and is slowly working his way back. The top centre has been practicing with the team through training camp, but is still not ready for game action.
"Just allowing things to really strengthen to the point where he can go and play against an unfriendly opponent," Keefe said on Friday prior to their preseason finale. "He's competing very hard in our practices and guys are going hard against him, but it's not the same, of course. The other part of it is, a lot of our guys have been at this for a few weeks now and so have the opponents so we [want to] give him a little more time to get up to speed.”
The league’s top goalscorer last season, Matthews' absence will obviously be felt in a big way. But with the signing of David Kampf and captain John Tavares available to be an All Star-caliber option as a first-line substitute, some of the concern is quelled.
Auston Matthews: “I’m dying to get in and play, honestly, and get reps with the guys. But I think it’s just one of those things that I gotta be patient with and be disciplined as far as that goes, and then make sure that I’m feeling 100 percent comfortable going in.”
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) October 11, 2021
Toronto will be facing the Montreal Canadiens in its season opener on Wednesday and then has two games against the provincial-rival Ottawa Senators. All three are winnable matches, even without Matthews on the ice.
Joining Matthews on the Leafs’ injured list is winger Ilya Mikheyev, who needs thumb surgery and will be out approximately eight weeks.
After reportedly requesting a trade and getting reassurance from Leafs GM Kyle Dubas that he will play more of a role this season, the 27-year-old forward will miss a significant chunk and will need to play catch-up. He earned 17 points in 54 games last season.
In other Toronto roster news, centre Adam Brooks was claimed on waivers by the arch-rival Canadiens on Monday.
Montreal claims Adam Brooks off waivers from Toronto.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 11, 2021
This is not Brooks’ first time on the waiver wire, as he went unclaimed last season, but with the Canadiens desperate for someone to secure the centre position — and the added spice of snapping up a player from the Leafs — GM Marc Bergevin pulled the trigger.
We can probably already pencil in a multi-point night for Brooks when the Leafs and Habs meet on Wednesday.
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