The top 2016 NHL draft prospect has put on an absolute clinic with Team USA’s under-18 squad and now he has enshrined himself in history by notching 103 points in a season. So just how good is this kid?
With a power play assist in the first period against Slovakia, Team USA’s Auston Matthews put himself in the history books. The elite center and top prospect for the 2016 NHL draft had himself his 103rd point of the season, breaking the National Team Development Program record of 102, set by Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane in 2005-06.
In a year where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have ruled the prospect world, it’s time to give Matthews his due.
Born and raised in Arizona, Matthews joined the NTDP under-17 squad last year and flew a bit under the radar due to an early-season injury. But scouts loved his skill, skating and two-way game and Matthews ramped things up this year with the under-18s.
The fact it was Kane’s record broken gives you an idea of the sort of talent Matthews is stacking up against. Second on the list was Toronto sniper Phil Kessel, while Eichel was tied for fourth.
So using the most present comparison, think about the excitement around Eichel and realize that a center who is the same size and the same age at the time (both are late birthdays, meaning they will be drafted a year later than most of their peers) will probably finish his season with 20 more points, one year after Eichel’s fantastic NTDP season.
“He’s worth talking about,” said Team USA coach Don Granato. “When we first got him here, I thought we had a chance to have the next first overall American. There’s such an inner burn with him.”
Much like Eichel, Matthews looks terrifying when he has the puck. Already 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, his quickness forces defenders back and he has great patience with the puck, so he uses that time and space to his advantage.
“His hand-eye co-ordination, vision of things behind him, vision of things that are going to unfold, is incredible,” Granato added.
Right now Matthews is over in Switzerland, trying to help Team USA win its seventh world under-18s gold in eight years (McDavid and the Canadians wrecked the streak in 2013). Once the tournament is over, his next decision will be a big one: where to play next season.
The Western League’s Everett Silvertips own his CHL rights and Matthews has gone out to Washington to visit the team’s facilities. The NCAA is the other path, with Boston U., Boston College, Denver, North Dakota and Michigan all options.
Wherever Matthews ends up, he’ll most likely only be there for a year. Because with the size, skills and drive that he possesses, the NHL will come calling as soon as possible.