With the first pick in the 2016 NHL Draft the Toronto Maple Leafs have selected Auston Matthews from ZSC Lions in the NLA.
About Auston Matthews
What is there to say about Matthews that hasn’t already been said? He has drawn comparisons to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. Had he been born a week earlier, he would have challenged Jack Eichel for the second overall pick. What kind of player is Matthews? Who better to answer that than Marc Crawford, who was his coach last season in Switzerland.
“He’s such a great kid; he really is… Don Granato [Matthews’ coach with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program under-18 team last season] told me that he was beyond belief in terms of how good a person he is and he was right. He likes the right people. All you need to know is that he wants to be like Jonathan Toews, and that says everything right there.”
In a season where he actually wanted a challenge instead of dominating junior hockey, he went to Switzerland and proceeded to lead the team in goals (24) and finishing second in points for the Lions (46). What makes it more impressive is that he played 12 less games than Robert Nilsson, who led the team in points and had only six more points than Matthews.
What Matthews Brings To The Leafs
Perhaps the better question is, what doesn’t Matthews bring to the Leafs? He will be the Maple Leafs’ first true No. 1 center since Mats Sundin left in 2008. He probably won’t step in immediately as the first-line center as to not put too much pressure on him too soon. That being said, he could play on a line with the Leafs’ first rounder last year, Mitch Marner. With Matthews drawing comparisons to Toews and Marner to Patrick Kane, the Leafs could have one of the next dynamic duos for years to come and it could all start as soon as this coming season.
The drafting of Matthews gives the Leafs a trio of core forwards to build with in the coming years. Matthews, Marner and William Nylander will be tough to handle as they all develop into the players they can be. On top of those three, the Leafs have players like Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov and Connor Brown that could also make a difference down the road.
The new era in Toronto might have started with the hiring of Brendan Shanahan, but it gets shot into high gear tonight.