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Defender Axel Rindell is ready to take the next step in North America

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Any hockey action in the middle of a steamy July?

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Yes, Axel Rindell wants to be involved.

Even if it’s anything but a scrimmage on Day 3 of Maple Leafs development camp at the Ford Performance Centre.

For Rindell, Toronto’s sixth-round pick in the 2020 National Hockey League draft, he got off on the right foot Tuesday afternoon, with the Blue and White team’s matchup paramount.

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After three seasons in Liiga, Finland’s top men’s hockey league, Rindell is preparing to bring his game to North America with the Toronto Marlies in 2022-23. First, a goal for the 22-year-old defenseman is a positive first impression once the puck drops on Tuesday.

“That’s my focus here,” Rindell said Monday, referring to the two scrimmages scheduled at camp, with the second scheduled for Friday. “I think I’m going to play really well and show that I’ve been playing with men in tough matches for three years now. I want to have fun.”

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Rindell, who signed a future two-year contract with the Leafs in April, joined the Marlies in the spring but did not play in a game as the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate failed to make the playoffs.

Part of Rindell’s goal this week is to get comfortable on the smaller ice surface, but he quickly adjusted during two days of on-ice practices.

“It’s more of a mental thing,” Rindell said. “The first few you’re on the ice, the guys are a little closer. You feel like ‘Oh, I can’t breathe here.’ It’s normal for me now.

“I think it would probably be harder to go from small ice to big ice. Because I’m a good player with the puck, it’s an advantage for me. If I can play well, we are faster in attack, we are closer to the net.”

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Once the camp ends, Rindell’s plan is to head back to Helsinki and skate for the rest of the summer with a group that includes Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund and former Leaf Leo Komarov. Rindell will return to Toronto in late August and strap in before training camp begins with the Leafs in September.

“I think that’s my biggest advantage, having played three years with men,” said Rindell, who has 65 points in 136 league games. “I know how to play against those guys.

“When I get to training camp, I want to be a little stronger physically, faster, better. There’s some time left, over a month, so I’m going to work on my physical side.”

WELCOME NICK

Nick Moldenhauer was having lunch at the Leafs practice facility recently and heard someone approaching.

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When he looked up, it was Leafs captain John Tavares.

“He walked over and introduced himself,” Moldenhauer said. “That’s pretty crazy, definitely cool.

Mississauga native Moldenhauer has been trying to get his feet on the ground since the Leafs drafted him in the third round, 95th overall, in the Montreal Draft two weeks ago.

Once the draft celebration was over and Moldenhauer returned to Toronto, he headed to the Ford Performance Center to begin preparing for development camp. When he stepped onto the ice on Sunday, the 18-year-old forward made it a point to absorb his surroundings.

“Being a hometown kid and growing up watching the Leafs my whole life, being able to put on a jersey with my last name on it, it’s indescribable,” Moldenhauer said. “It’s definitely clicked in, but maybe not completely. The next day (after the draft) I was here at practice with all the guys and the whole staff. That was pretty surreal. They are doing things at such a high level and I’m just looking forward to the rest of the summer.”

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Last season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, Moldenhauer had 43 points in 41 games. It is not yet clear where he will play in 2022-23.

LOOSE LEAVES

Ryan Tverberg, the Leafs’ seventh-round pick in 2020, was in good spirits when asked last winter about becoming Canada’s final cut at the world junior tournament. “It didn’t feel right to be Canada’s Ralph Cox,” the Richmond Hill native said, referring to the player who was the last cut for the United States in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Tverberg said he paid close attention during the camp cookout, when the players were preparing the salad , stuffed chicken and potatoes. “That was definitely something I took more into account because next year in college (his third season at the University of Connecticut) I’m going to have my own kitchen. It was all a good warm-up.” … Ilya Lyubushkin was made available to the Buffalo media on Monday for the first time since leaving the Leafs and signing with the Sabers in free agency. “I always try to play hard, do my job,” the rugged defenseman said. “I want getting better every day.” I like my game, I like my job. I know my role. I know what game I have to play to help the team. I just enjoy (playing) and I don’t think about it too much.” Will the Leafs be broken by the loss of Lyubushkin? No . Will the Leafs miss his no-questions-asked physical approach on the blue line? Yes… New Leaf Calle Jarnkrok got married last weekend in Sweden. Another new Leaf, Victor Mete, also got married over the weekend.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/koshtorontosun

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