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Eichel kicks off his first pro September at NHLPA Rookie Showcase

TORONTO -- Welcome to September and welcome back to hockey season.

I'm here for Jack Eichel's media session today in the seventh annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase, which will be held at 11 a.m. in the Mattamy Athletic Center -- the old Maple Leaf Gardens. The former home of the Leafs is now a super-sized Loblaws market on the ground level with the center ice dot marked on the floor in the Spam aisle (seriously), and a smaller rink on the upper levels to host Ryerson Tech hockey. The famous exterior is intact and it's a trememdous re-use project.

(Where was Wegmans when the Aud was still standing?)

The Rookie Showcase features 39 first-year players, topped by Eichel and No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid. It's run by the NHL Players Association and sponsored by Upper Deck cards, which makes for an interesting situation. McDavid has previously signed an exclusive deal with Upper Deck while Eichel inked a big-money deal on Monday with Leaf for cards and other memorabilia.

The Sabres have yet to announce any dates for their rookie camp or training camp, although it's expected the rookies will start skating around Sept. 9 with the vets' first day on the ice likely to be in the Sept. 16-18 range.

Rookie games at First Niagara Center will be Sept. 12 against New Jersey and Sept. 14 against Boston. Tickets are $10 and I would certainly expect the Boston game -- on a Saturday night right before the Bills opener -- to draw a crowd of more than 10,000.

Your refresher on the preseason schedule looks like this:

Monday, Sept. 21 at Minnesota
Wednesday, Sept. 23 vs. Ottawa
Friday, Sept. 25 at Toronto
Saturday, Sept. 26 at Ottawa
Tuesday, Sept. 29 vs. Toronto
Thursday, Oct. 1 at Minnesota
Friday, Oct. 2 vs. Columbus

Tickets to the preseason games and the Sept. 24 USA Hockey All-America Prospects Game went on sale today.

Stay tuned here later today for more from Eichel.

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