After just one World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game, Auston Matthews is holding his own and will receive his first promotion. Reported by TSN’s John Lu, Team North America‘s practice lines indicates that Matthews impressed head coach Todd McLellan enough to get moved from the third line to the second. Even though it’s just pre-tournament play, Toronto Maple Leafs fans can’t be upset with the way the tournament has started out for their team’s 2016 first overall pick.
A meaningless tournament for some, there will be no shortage of talent on display from any of the eight teams participating. Matthews, who has yet to play his first NHL game with his new team, held his own in his first match up against Team Europe. Despite finishing the game with the team’s third-lowest ice time of 13:13, Matthews managed to record two shots and being on the ice for one of North America’s three even-strength goals.
Rematch against Team Europe
Looking ahead to Sunday’s rematch game against Europe, Matthews will receive his first taste of the Bell Centre crowd. Montreal atmosphere is what Maple Leafs players will have to experience at one point or another.
Expected to play left wing to Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele and Columbus Blue Jackets Brandon Saad, Matthews will continue to get a fresh feel of what it’s like to play with NHL talent. His first hand experience of playing with Thursday’s player of the night, Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan Mackinnon, was a fortunate way to debut.
“He’s an electrifying player,” Matthews said referring to Mackinnon. “His skating and puckhandling are unbelievable.”
Being that Matthews is surrounded by a tremendous amount of NHL talent, look for it to help his development. The presence of heavily followed stars in the dressing room could improve his on-ice play as well as his ability to speak to the media (not like he needed it before). Each game will bring a new obstacle and a learning curve, it’s nothing new to any rookie trying to break into the league. Perhaps the World Cup will give him an advantage over other rookies. Instead of his first NHL game being a pre-season, a time where NHL regulars are often resting, Matthews will face the best of them all, a true test of his maturity and skill.
Not a True Test
Nonetheless, this tournament is for the purposes of fun. Some could argue the faces of the NHL may not be giving their all. Obviously the best way to measure Matthews’ true skill is to see how he performs when it really counts.
For Leafs fans, the only thing that can be done is to enjoy hockey before the real season starts. Most fans are likely supporting Team Canada, but seeing Matthews succeed amongst the leagues best will definitely cause some excitement.
If Matthews can continue to hold his own regardless of whichever line he plays on, look for good things to come. Special players strive on their own, without relying on chemistry to do well. Only one game has passed, but early signs of Matthews play is bringing hope to his future.Main Photo