TORONTO – Travis Dermott has already added injury to insult this pre-season, but neither should set off alarms just yet.
The Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman left Wednesday’s pre-season victory in Ottawa for precautionary reasons after injuring his shoulder while trying to box out an opponent in front of the net.
After missing two days of practice, Dermott returned to the ice Friday morning wearing a red non-contact sweater.
"The play was kind of a fluke, just kind of a hockey play where it doesn’t look bad to the untrained eye but it felt a little off," Dermott explained after the skate. "You don’t want to push it at this time when the games don’t mean as much as when the season starts."
The 21-year-old failed to make the cut out of training camp last fall but excelled at both the AHL and NHL levels last season and has been pencilled in on Toronto’s third pairing.
Officially listed as day-to-day, Dermott described this latest shoulder injury as "nothing serious" and clarified that it is the opposite shoulder he injured during the Marlies’ Calder Cup run and kept him out of June’s championship-clinching game.
Just because Dermott is the front-runner in a crowded race for spots 5 through 7 on Toronto’s defensive depth chart, coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want him to take his status for granted.
“I want him to act like he’s trying to make the team,” Babcock said last week. “Show intensity and jump and compete. Young guys, sometimes when you arrive, you sometimes think: ‘Oh, I’ve arrived now.’
“But the other guys want your job. I think him and [winger Andreas Johnsson] are both in the same boat that way. They went down, they won a championship. It’s the National Hockey League, and you have to win a job.”
Dermott has heard the message and noted Friday that the competition for roster spots at this September’s training camp is stiffer than in 2017
"I didn’t even get a spot out of camp [last fall]," he reminded.
"This year we have even better competition. We’ve got some great players here than can make an impact, so it’s a good little battle we’ve got going on for sure."