Out of the Arizona desert, Toronto may have found its hockey savior.
The Maple Leafs selected Arizona native Auston Matthews with the first overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft. Matthews joins a team undergoing a major rebuilding process. But it’s an organization that has a vision that now includes the young American. The center spent last season with the Zurich Lions of the Swiss NLA, netting 46 points (24-22) in 36 games.
Matthews also saw success internationally in both the World Junior Championships last December and then again in the World Championships in May. Matthews helped the American squad walk away with a bronze medal at the World Juniors. PHR took a look at Matthews earlier in the week.
While the buzz isn’t as deafening as last year’s #1 pick Connor McDavid, Matthews has been compared to Chicago Blackhawks captain and franchise player Jonathan Toews. Lauded for his strong two-way game and calm demeanor, Matthews is also a story because he is from Arizona. Sarah McLellan wrote extensively about Matthews’ journey to the draft and growing up in the southwest as a budding hockey superstar–where the game hasn’t always seen great success.
Regardless, the addition of Matthews definitely helps the Maple Leafs arduous rebuilding process. Still searching for its first Stanley Cup since 1967, Toronto may have taken a giant step forward with Matthews now in the fold.