There aren’t many players who get the chance to suit up with their home country’s men’s national club before they��ve even reached the age of draft eligibility. Matter of fact, not even Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the 2015 draft’s consensus first and second overall picks, had that honor.
For Auston Matthews, the 2016 draft’s top prospect, he’ll get his chance at showcasing his ability among the best in the world Tuesday afternoon when he skates with the U.S. men’s national team for an exhibition contest against Austria.
Matthews, 17, is two days removed from winning gold with Team U.S.A. at the U18 World Championship where he was named tournament MVP after posting an outrageous eight goals and 15 points in seven games.
In 2014-15, Matthews broke Patrick Kane’s nearly decade-old record for points in a single season by a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program when he scored his 103rd point of the campaign. Following the U18 tournament, Matthews has 55 goals 116 points in 60 games, a full 20 points more than the next higheset-scoring player, Matthew Tkachuk, who has 38 goals and 96 points in 65 games.
“His hand-eye co-ordination, vision of things behind him, vision of things that are going to unfold, is incredible,” Team USA coach Don Granato told THN’s Ryan Kennedy earlier this month.
The final rosters for the World Championship have yet to be announced, but Matthews, an Arizona native, getting the call from the men’s national club to come aboard with the chance to make the team is yet another feather in his cap and can only help his development.
Next season, Matthews is likely to move on from the NTDP and has plenty of options. The WHL’s Everett Silvertips own his rights if he chooses to go the CHL route, but Matthews has also drawn major interest from the NCAA. According to Kennedy, Boston University, Boston College, Denver, North Dakota and Michigan are some of the schools known to be pursuing him.
Once the McDavid hype ends and the 2015 draft is said and done, there will be good reason to begin thinking about what Matthews can bring to the table.