Matthews consensus No. 1 in initial 2016 mock draft

Wednesday, 01.13.2016 / 3:00 AM NHL.com

Center Auston Matthews entered the 2015-16 season regarded as the top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft.

His play this season, especially at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, has cemented his spot at the top of the draft list.

That includes the initial mock drafts for NHL.com's draft experts, Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale, who each believe Matthews will be the first player picked when the 30 teams meet June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

Matthews, who has starred for Zurich in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league, led the United States with 11 points in seven games at the tournament and tied for the lead with seven goals. He was one goal shy of the single-tournament U.S. record of eight goals set by Jeremy Roenick at the 1989 WJC.

But Matthews wasn't the only player from the 2016 draft class to reach superstar level at the WJC; five of the top six scorers at the tournament are members of the 2016 draft class, and they also were five of the top picks in each mock draft.

Right wing Jesse Puljujarvi, who plays for Karpat in Liiga, Finland's top pro league, helped Finland win the gold medal by leading the tournament with 17 points; it's the second-most points ever by an under-18 player in the tournament, one behind Jaromir Jagr's 18 for Czechoslovakia at the 1990 WJC.

Finland right wing Patrik Laine, who plays for Tappara in Liiga, tied Matthews for the tournament lead with seven goals and was third with 13 points. Left wing Matthew Tkachuk (London, OHL) tied Matthews for the U.S. lead with 11 points. Left wing Alexander Nylander (Mississauga, OHL) led Sweden with four goals and nine points.

The only player who didn't star at the WJC to crack the top six in the mock drafts was defenseman Jakob Chychrun of Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League; he was one of the final roster cuts for Canada.

After those first six players the mock drafts diverge a bit as a deep pool of talented players were placed based on skill and team fit.

The order for this mock draft was set based on League standings after games played Sunday.

Three teams have multiple first-round picks. The Boston Bruins have their pick as well as the San Jose Sharks' selection, acquired in the trade that sent goaltender Martin Jones to the Sharks.

The Arizona Coyotes own the New York Rangers' pick through last season's trade of defenseman Keith Yandle. And the Carolina Hurricanes have the Los Angeles Kings' top pick through the trade of defenseman Andrej Sekera.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could end up with the Pittsburgh Penguins' first choice. The conditional pick was lottery protected as part of the trade that sent forward Phil Kessel from the Maple Leafs to the Penguins.

Does one mock draft seem more accurate than the other? Let us know in the comments.

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