Hockey World Blog

Leafs Reach South for No. 1 Overall Pick Matthews

Auston Matthews became the first American to be taken No. 1 overall in the NHL Entry Draft since Patrick Kane in 2007. Matthews could have been a contender for the top draft pick last season, but missed the birthday cutoff by two days.

The 18-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona native took a gamble on his career last season when he skipped playing in the WHL for Everett in favor of playing professionally in Switzerland for ZSC Lions. His accolades were chronicled earlier this season when he played a pivotal role in helping the United States to third and fourth place in international tournaments in recent months. When he played in the World Juniors, he scored 11 points in seven games. In the World Championships, he carried the team on his back with the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal in a shootout win over Czech Republic. He finished the tournament last month leading the United States and tied for fourth overall in goals with four.

He’s already expected to be a top-six forward for Toronto coming out of training camp. Fans of the blue and white are dying for a winning team and they might have a cornerstone player in Matthews. Matthews doesn’t see himself as a savior, but rather a piece of the puzzle. “I don’t really think about [being a savior for the Maple Leafs],” Matthews said. “Hockey is a team game and obviously I want to be an impact player. I want to make the team better and get better each day, so that’s my goal going forward. This is a passionate hockey market, but I think I can take it.”

He will try to be Toronto’s first 30-goal center in eight years, when Mats Sundin lit the lamp 32 times in 74 games in 2007-08.

He’ll see his first taste of Air Canada Centre in the 2016 World Cup when he’ll suit up for Team North America.

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