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Hyman excited about possibility of playing with Tavares on Maple Leafs

Forward says expectations higher with addition of free agent center

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Zach Hyman was excited when John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent July 1 but is now even more pumped about the prospect of skating on the same line with him next season.

After Tavares signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with Toronto, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock spoke about his lineup and mentioned the idea of playing Tavares with Hyman and Mitchell Marner


[RELATED: Maple Leafs 'can and will' keep Matthews, Marner, Nylander with Tavares]


"It's pretty cool if I get a chance to play with him," Hyman, 26, told Thursday. "That would be awesome. He's an unbelievable player and so is [Marner]. I've been playing with Auston [Matthews] for the last two years and he's obviously a great player, too, so it's a great situation to be in for sure. 

"It's only July now so a lot can change from now until training camp, so I'm just going to worry about practicing, training and being as ready as I can be." 

Hyman spent most of the past two seasons playing alongside Matthews and improved from 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 2016-17 (his first full NHL season) to 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) last season. 

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Hyman turns on jets for stellar goal

With the Maple Leafs having Matthews, Tavares and Nazem Kadri, who scored 64 goals the past two seasons, as their top three centers, Hyman said he does not see a bad place in the lineup.

"That's the situation that we're in as wingers; we have great centermen to play with," Hyman said. "We have a really good group. It doesn't really matter who you play with, you're going to be playing with a good player."

Tavares, 27, has scored 188 goals, tied for the third in the NHL with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, over the past six seasons. Only Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (268) and Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (189) have more since the start of the 2012-13 season.

"He's got world-class skill and a skill set that's very unique," Hyman said. "He's extremely strong on the puck, he can make plays, scores goals, he's a two-way player, he really does it all. He's a complete player and we're lucky to be adding a guy like him."

After being eliminated in the Eastern Conference First Round the past two seasons, Hyman said the Maple Leafs will be under pressure to go on a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. 

"Expectations always increase with success," Hyman said. "The expectations from our first to second year increased and they're going to increase again from our second to third year now. And obviously, with the addition of John and some other pieces, we're going to have to face more expectations, but all we can do is go out there and be as prepared as possible."

Although he's looking forward to skating with Tavares, the start of training camp is still a few months away and recently, Hyman has been focusing on promoting the release of his third children's book, "The Magician's Secret."

"All three books have a similar message which is the power of self-belief," Hyman said. "The message behind this one is that whatever you believe you can achieve. It's an adventure book, an imagination book and really the story of a grandson and his grandfather."

He said writing compelling stories for children is not as easy as some might think.

"You want to make sure that the book has an important message, first and foremost, which is what I try to do in all my books, and then you want to make sure the kids enjoy the book but at the same time you want to make it universal so that adults can come away really have enjoyed reading it with their kids," Hyman said.

Video: MTL@TOR: Hyman crashes the net and buries the rebound

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