Heading into a unique season that'll see his club play a compressed schedule in a novel all-Canadian division, Sheldon Keefe is giving his starring young pair some veteran savvy to help them navigate 2020-21.
Speaking with the media Sunday as the Toronto Maple Leafs opened training camp, the club's head coach said off-season acquisition Joe Thornton will start the season at left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Keefe also said newcomer Jimmy Vesey would skate alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, while Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot and Zach Hyman would join up. Fellow off-season additions Wayne Simmonds and Alexander Barabanov are set to line up with Jason Spezza.
Thornton, who joins the blue and white for his 23rd campaign in the big leagues, has long manned centre ice, establishing himself as one of the premier pivots in the game during his prime. That said, it's the 41-year-old's playmaking ability that remains his most dangerous asset, and one that Keefe seems intent on pairing with his team's most potent sniper.
Thornton spent the past 15 years with the San Jose Sharks after an eight-year run in Boston. The veteran joins the Maple Leafs with 1,055 points to his name through 1,104 career tilts, along with Hart and Art Ross trophies from his younger days.
Matthews and Marner finished as the Maple Leafs' top two scorers in 2019-20, the former amassing a career-best 47 goals and 80 points through 70 games and the latter posting 67 points through 59 games.