In an interview with NHL.com, Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares says that he expects to be healthy and cleared to play for the team’s training camp, which starts in mid-September. Tavares missed the remainder of the season after being stretchered off the ice during Game 1 of the team’s first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Tavares has been working out during the summer and steadily improving after he was cleared to return to on-ice participation last month. The team’s captain had this to say on his recent participation:
“For me, it was nice to just kind of get back out and work on some things I wanted to work on, come off the injury and be on the ice a lot, get a good feel for my game and build from there with a good group of guys.”
It’s reassuring to see a stable recovery path from Tavares, especially considering the apparent severity of the play on which he was injured. His leadership and performance will be perhaps more crucial than ever to Toronto’s success this season after a retooled roster leaves the team’s offense with some question marks. Add in the health concerns surrounding Auston Matthews, who’ll miss the start of camp but is expected to be ready for the season opener on October 13, and Tavares’ position on the team this season is of high importance to the team’s record.
Tavares likely enters the 2021-22 campaign working with some new linemates. While he’ll still likely be flanked by William Nylander on the right side, there’s a long list of names who will battle for the second line left-wing spot including Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, Alexander Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev. Tavares and Nylander will be relied upon heavily to provide secondary scoring behind the duo of Matthews and Mitch Marner up front, and the Leafs hopes they can catch lightning in a bottle with a new linemate.