Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews are in action at 8 p.m. tonight in Team North America’s exhibition opener versus Team Europe (available on Sportsnet). Below are some links to pass the time until our first real hockey fix since June.

Mythbusters Series: Three Arguments Against the Idea that “The Leafs are Decreasing Their Focus on Analytics” (MLHS)

In this article, I will argue there is significant analytical support in favour of the type of player Toronto targeted (e.g. over-age and bigger players in general, rather than the specific individuals the Leafs picked). Further, if any team in any sport is truly trying to be on the ‘leading edge’ and develop innovative approaches to the game, that often might actually require doing things others see as questionable at the time.

Jake Gardiner – 2016-17 Player Preview (MLHS)

Overall, Gardiner enters the 2016-17 season with high expectations. Now 26 years old, Gardiner is in the prime of his career and he is one of the longest-tenured members of the organization. Aside from re-signing Roman Polak and bringing in Zaitsev from the KHL, the Leafs made few significant changes to their defensive core this offseason. For the young Leafs to surprise, they’re going to need a big season from a matured Jake Gardiner in his second season under Mike Babcock.

Top 25 Under 25: William Nylander is no. 2 (PPP)

Katasaros mentions Nylander’s defensive leaving much to be desired. It seems to me at this point unlikely that Nylander is ever going to be a great two-way forward, but he’s not terrible in the D-zone, either. He reads developing plays well and uses a good active stick to intercept passes and head in the other direction quickly. His active stick is equally well suited to checking a puck carrier. Nylander has got work to do in the defensive end, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not without defensive awareness.

Game Preview: Team Europe, Team North America ready for debuts (

Matthews playing left wing on a Team North America line of three No. 1 picks. Matthews, who was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in June and will likely make his NHL debut in October, has practiced with Nugent-Hopkins, who was chosen No. 1 by the Oilers in 2011, and right wing Nathan MacKinnon, picked No. 1 by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013. Mathews and MacKinnon practiced together on a power-play unit with forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

NHL players not worried about getting hurt at World Cup of Hockey (Toronto Star)

“When you get out there with the best players, you want to look good, so you amp it up, that’s just natural,” Canadian coach Mike Babcock said. “You try to do everything you can to prepare your body and your mind, too,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “You have to be ready to compete pretty hard right away. If mentally you’re in it, usually your body holds up.”

Auston Matthews embraces pressure of playing at World Cup — and for Toronto (National Post)

“There’s a lot of characteristics when I talk about Auston in the locker room that I used with an individual last year in Edmonton,” said McLellan, clearly referencing Connor McDavid. “They’re different players, but the ‘wow’ factor, the maturity, the size and strength and poise with the puck, the ability to pick up concepts really quick and for me the lack of intimidation.

North American squad has young veterans to lean on at World Cup of Hockey (Yahoo! Sports)

 “There are times in games and in locker-rooms where we’ll have to settle down a bit,” McLellan said Wednesday. “We may get running around. Not panicking, but a little nervous. “That’s where being young comes in. But we have some players — (Nathan) MacKinnon, Nugent-Hopkins, Couturier — who have played a long time in the league now. They should be relied on as the guys that can settle things down and say, ‘OK let’s get back to our structure and play as a team and we’ll be fine.'”

Lu: Matthews will stand out on Team North America (TSN1050)

TSN Montreal bureau reporter, John Lu, who covers Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey joins Mike Hogan and Scott MacArthur on TSN 1050 Today. The guys discuss Auston Matthews’ role at the World Cup and the chemistry of Team North America.

How World Cup of Hockey ties will be broken (Yahoo! Sports)

With two groups of four teams, it’s entirely possible we’re going to see the World Cup of Hockey points standings knotted up before the elimination rounds. So who advances to the semifinals and how? The NHL, NHLPA and IIHF released that tie-breaker information on Thursday, and the process should be familiar to anyone that’s waded through the murky waters of the NHL regular season.