He has gone coast-to-coast atop the rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft, so the likelihood that center Auston Matthews will be passed over for Finnish star Patrik Laine seems unlikely. The Toronto Maple Leafs, holders of the first pick in this year’s draft, will ultimately decide Matthews fate, but it seems likely that the Scottsdale, AZ native will be donning the blue-and-white at next Friday’s proceedings.
Matthews’ story has become very familiar at this point – a kid from an area not known as a hockey hotbed who has risen to the top of his draft class while taking an alternative route in his draft year by competing in Switzerland’s top league. The 6’2″, 216-pound pivot has shown that he is a top talent regardless of where he has competed or who he has competed against, and he certainly has the look of player who is ready to step into NHL duty in the 2016-17 season.
There is one order of business that has to be taken care of before Matthews begins his NHL career, however, that being his participation in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament that will take place in the fall, prior to the NHL season. Matthews isn’t necessarily a lead-pipe cinch to make the Team North America roster given some of the young talent that will be available to that squad, but he has plenty of international experience under his belt already and has shown that he can compete with and against men.
Matthews took part in the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine that took place at the HarborCenter in Buffalo last week. He spoke with the media after his testing session, with some of his comments being captured in this Hockey’s Future video.
Matthews competed for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland’s National League A in the 2015-16 season. He produced 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 36 games for the Lions, and added three assists in four playoff games. Below is a highlight reel from his time with that club this season.
NHL Central Scouting has Matthews ranked first overall among European skaters (because he competed in Europe this season), while ISS Hockey has him ranked first overall amongst all draft prospects.