Date: September 23, 2016

Matthews turning heads entering Maple Leafs camp

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By The Associated Press

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.

Sedins relishing chance for major title at World Cup

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By The Associated Press

Daniel Sedin knows the World Cup of Hockey may be his final chance to represent Sweden at a best-on-best tournament along with twin brother Henrik.

With that in mind, there’s no shortage of motivation for the 35-year-old Vancouver Canucks forwards heading into Sunday’s semifinal meeting with Team Europe.

”We realize as we get older there’s not going to be a lot of these tournaments moving forward,” Daniel Sedin said. ”We don’t know about the (2018) Olympics yet, but we’re enjoying this. We’re having a lot of fun and getting a chance to play in the semifinals, it was tough getting here.

”We’re enjoying every day and we’ll have some fun on Sunday.”

The last time Sweden won gold at a best-on-best tournament was the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Sweden lost to Canada in the gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Sweden won its round-robin opener at the World Cup 2-1 against Russia on Sunday and blanked Finland 2-0 on Wednesday before falling 4-3 in overtime to Team North America on Wednesday.

The Swedes are hoping to learn from their loss against the Under-23 team moving forward. They were thoroughly outplayed early, quickly going down 2-0 before rallying to force overtime.

”I think we can definitely learn (about) being ready when the puck drops, those first 10 minutes were pretty embarrassing from our part,” said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. ”The Europeans have some speed in their lineup as well so we have to be ready when the puck drops. We weren’t ready for Team North America, but somehow we managed to a big comeback there.”

After losing the first two pre-tournament games by a combined 11-4 score to the North Americans, Team Europe bounced back to defeat Sweden 6-2 in its final tune up game.

”They surprised us a little bit in the exhibition game, but they won’t surprise us on Sunday,” Sedin said. ”They wait for you to make mistakes, and then they create offence from that. We’ve got to be careful on Sunday. We can’t just go on offence like we did in that pre-tournament game.

”I think our defense was jumping a little bit too much and got too involved in the offense. I think we have to respect their forwards.”

Team Europe, made up of players from eight different countries, stunned the Americans 3-0 in the tournament opener and defeated the Czechs 3-2 in overtime before falling 4-1 to the Canadians on Wednesday.

European captain Anze Kopitar pointed to the second period of the pre-tournament game against Team North America in Montreal as the turning point for the team of players unfamiliar with playing with one another.

”I think the first period in Montreal really opened our eyes and we really showed ourselves how we don’t want to play,” Kopitar said of the second pre-tournament game. ”After that, we kind of realized how we have to play: smart (and) with a lot of patience, there’s no flash to it. We’re playing a boring style of hockey, but it’s turned out to be a pretty successful one so we’re obviously proud in doing that and we’re going to continue doing that.”

The winner of Saturday’s Canada-Russia semifinal will play the winner of Sweden-Europe in a best-of-three final beginning on Tuesday.

2016 HKAHC Invitational Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament