Barring any surprises, Auston Matthews will be picked first overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. That feeling is nearly unanimous among those who have published rankings this year, and with the draft swiftly approaching, that is highly unlikely to change.
There are some that feel Patrik Laine has passed him, but the big centre from Arizona is a fantastic prospect. He has everything needed for a successful career in the NHL. He's not just a future franchise player, but one that many expect to jump into the NHL next year and contribute.
Birthplace: Scottsdale, Arizona
Height: 6'2" Weight: 194 lbs
He was the preseason number one across the board, and while Laine mounted a late charge, the American centre is the consensus top pick of the draft. In the World Juniors, he was fourth in points behind the Finnish Triplets of Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujarvi, who undoubtedly benefitted from playing with each other.
He is a natural goal-scorer, has great playmaking abilities to boot, and is one of the better skaters available this year. He has a great 200-foot game, and plays very responsibly in his own zone. Basically, you'd have a very hard time picking faults in his game.
If one were to try and come up with a criticism, it is that he could use his shot more. He has a great release, and he seems tentative at times to use it. That's might even be a bit of a reach, because he doesn't exactly have a problem putting the puck in the net.
He chose an unconventional route to the NHL for North American born prospects, electing to head to the NLA in Switzerland. While unconventional, the decision worked out quite well for him. He tore it up on Zurich Lions' first line and finished tenth in league scoring with 24 goals and 46 total points.
During the World Championship in Russia, he averaged almost a point per game in a weak American team, but he impressed enough that he will be part of Team North America at the World Cup.
It was a very impressive year for him overall, and served only to increase his stock among scouts and General Managers alike.
Franchise center, Matthews is at the top of the draft class for a reason. Combining his great skating, soft hands, incredible skill and solid frame to dominate games. Played very well at IIHF 2016 World Championship for Team USA, finished with 6 goals 9 points in 10 games. Easily the most talented player in the Swiss NLA. He adapted instantly to playing against men. Finesse forward, who controls the play and is a scoring threat whenever he is on the ice. Tremendous puck handling as he can make even bad passes count, taking them from his skates to his stick at full speed. Can play with anyone as he owns elite hockey sense and sees the plays before they develop. Willing to go into the corners and in front of the net.
Matthews is a strong, powerful player who has the ability to make those around him elevate their games. He is a real good skater with powerful strides and strong jump. He possesses strong vision, excellent possession skills, a strong shot and the ability to create plays out of nothing for himself and his linemates. He is also strong defensively, bringing a good effort level and complete game.
Thomas Roost, NHL-Scout for Central Scouting (available @thomasroost)
Matthews and Laine are quite different players in many aspects but I judge their overall-quality as pretty similar on a very high level. Matthews is more of a playmaker with the ability to make his line mates around him better. He moves the puck very well and this with surprising ease. One of his best assets is how strong he is on the puck. If he has the puck in the corners or along the walls it’s very difficult to move him off the puck. He has excellent hand-skills and can make good plays. He also improved his shooting-ability quite a lot, I really like his wrist shot. Also an excellent weapon is with how much ease he can drive with the puck from the own zone into the offensive-zone and there he creates options.
During the season in Zurich he did learn how to fight for the puck in the own zone, how to act more efficiently without the puck. In his plays shielding the puck along the wall and in the corners he reminds me sometimes a bit on Jaromir Jagr, his other playing style drives comparisons with Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. He is on the verge of becoming a great two-way-centre.He is also a good skater who can change gears quickly. Auston Matthews seems to be a rather down to earth young man with good manners and an already extremely professional – which could be interpreted as boring – approach in interviews. Also on the ice he seems to be most of the time calm, relaxed and composed. I guess that he just very seldom feels stress on the ice. If I have to talk about weak points in his game I think that he still could raise his intensity-level a bit, especially in clutch-situations and in the game without the puck he also still has room to improve.
A high octane dynamo that thrives under the microscope, Auston Matthews is a complete offensive forward who consistently boasts quick hands, feet, and thinking at both ends of the ice. Naturally nimble skater that accelerates to top speed very quickly. An unwavering focus on fine tuning elements of his own game facilitates confidence and competence in his young, but mature, mind. Prolific goal scoring ability and doesn't wait for opportunities to show themselves. He makes his own luck, so to speak, maximizing the use of his body and stick to gain leverage against the toughest of opponents. All-in-all, a generational talent that has the potential to develop into a top flight franchise center.
Future Considerations: 1st
Central Scouting service: 1st (European Skaters)
Draft Buzz Hockey: 1st
Bob McKenzie: 1st
Draft Analyst: 1st
In order for the Montreal Canadiens to get Auston Matthews, it would have to be via some miracle video game trade with the Leafs. Unfortunately that is not going to happen, so we will never know what he'd look like in the Tricolore.
The price for trading up to a division rival to get the number one pick in the draft would be incredible steep and would probably centre around P.K. Subban and a few more players and draft picks. In short, they probably don't want to pay what Toronto would be asking, and Toronto probably doesn't want to give up their pick anyways.
Matthews is a franchise player, someone you eventually expect to become your top line centre. While he might not be ready for first line duties next season, he won't be far off. Picks like this only come around once in a blue moon - unless you're the Edmonton Oilers - and Toronto will likely be very happy with him.
Unless of course they decide to pull off a plot twist and go with Patrik Laine. Only time will tell.