By Allan Muir
Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs spent the past few weeks consoling themselves with thoughts of how close they came to upending the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Naturally, the thinking went, the Buds must be pretty close to being a Cup contender themselves.
While that "logic" bordered on the delusional, the team's long-suffering faithful should feel a bit better about the future after three of Toronto's top prospects were named to Team Canada's Under-20 summer camp. The event acts as an orientation for the players most likely to be chosen to represent the country at next year's World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden.
Toronto's hopefuls include defensemen Morgan Rielly (fifth overall, 2012) and Morgan Finn (35th, 2012), and forward Ryan Rupert (157th, 2012).
No other team had more than two prospects earn invites, although that number may change as 21 of the invites went out to draft-eligible players, including Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Zachary Fucale and Max Domi. Also getting the call were Sam Reinhart, the early favorite to go first overall in 2014, and Connor McDavid, who tore up the U-18 spring tournament and is eligible in 2015.
The camp roster includes just five returnees from last year's disappointing fourth-pace squad, though with MacKinnon and Drouin likely to make the jump to the NHL, only Rielly, defender Griffin Reinhart (Islanders) and third-string netminder Jake Paterson (Red Wings) are likely to be with the team in December. The complete roster is available here.