Three days ago, when the Toronto Maple Leafs began their pre-camp line drills at Ford Performance Centre, Mitch Marner didn’t even bother looking at the assignment sheet.
Marner spotted ol’ linemate Zach Hyman wearing the same shade of practice sweater and tapped the club’s favourite forechecker to join Auston Matthews.
“I’m assuming it’s us three,” Marner said.
“No,” Hyman replied. “You’re playing with Jumbo.”
And with that, the first mini bombshell of this utterly unobserved yet highly scrutinized training camp was dropped.
Joe Thornton: Minimum-wage earner, future Hall of Famer, oldest forward in the league, and -- yep -- top-line winger.
With a point-per-game pitstop in the picturesque Davos in between, Thornton has gone from third-line status on a poor Sharks squad to flanking a pair of all-stars screaming into their prime in Toronto.
Consider: Thornton’s most frequent linemates with San Jose in 2019-20, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc, combined for 21 goals. Matthews and Marner combined for 63.