Skip to main content
game preview

Auston Matthews creating buzz before debut

Maple Leafs rookie will face Senators in first NHL game

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

Maple Leafs (0-0-0) at Senators (0-0-0)

7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV

OTTAWA -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, said making his debut against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday will be the highlight of his young career.

That's saying something for the 19-year-old, who has starred on the world stage in junior and world championships, played pro hockey in Switzerland and played for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"I think [the NHL debut] kind of out does it quite a bit," Matthews said. "It's your first NHL game so it's definitely pretty exciting. I'm pretty anxious to finally get going."

The advice from Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to his young players (the Maple Leafs will dress six players 23 years old or younger against the Senators): "Just play. Just be good players. Take care of the puck and work real hard. Be good without it and let your skill come out."

Senators captain Erik Karlsson said he expected a lot of buzz around Matthews' debut.

"First overall pick, there's always going to be hype no matter how it is, no matter who it is, especially being in Toronto," Karlsson said. "Good for him. He's a good player and he's shown that and proven that in his previous years. That's why he went first overall, but it starts today and I'm sure he has a lot to learn. I'm sure he's one of those guys who's going to pick it up pretty fast."

In addition to Matthews, the Maple Leafs will have 19-year-old forward Mitchell Marner, the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft, making his NHL debut.

"They're skilled players," Karlsson said. "They're fast-paced players and they're obviously very creative. It's going to be a challenge whether they're 18 years old or 29 years old."

The Maple Leafs, who finished 30th in the League with 69 points last season, will face a Senators team with a new coach, Guy Boucher, and a new top-six forward, Derick Brassard, who will make his Senators debut in his hometown.

Boucher succeeded Dave Cameron on May 8 and returns to the NHL after three seasons coaching SC Bern of the Swiss A League. This is his second job in the League. He was 97-78-20 with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2010-2013.

"I'm very calm, but very excited," Boucher said. "It's time. That's where it's exciting. It's time to get going with the real games, with the real roster and measure ourselves against real NHL teams.

"This is as ready as I think we can be for the circumstances. New coach, new players, new system."

 

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Milan Michalek -- Nazem Kadri -- Leo Komarov

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Peter Holland -- Connor Brown

Martin Marincin -- Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner -- Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick -- Nikita Zaitsev

Frederik Andersen

Jhonas Enroth

Injured: Joffrey Lupul (sports hernia), Josh Leivo (lower body), Stephane Robidas (knee)

Scratched: Frank Carrado, Roman Polak, Seth Griffith

 

Senators projected lineup

Mike Hoffman -- Kyle Turris -- Mark Stone

Zack Smith -- Derick Brassard -- Bobby Ryan  

Phil Varone -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Tom Pyatt

Ryan Dzingel -- Chris Kelly -- Chris Neil

Marc Methot -- Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf -- Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki -- Chris Wideman

Craig Anderson

Andrew Hammond

Injured: Clarke MacArthur (concussion)

Scratched: Thomas Chabot, Matt Puempel

 

Status report

Varone earned the chance to start the regular season over Puempel. He made his Senators debut in a season-ending 6-1 victory against the Boston Bruins on April 9, when he had an assist.

 

Who's hot

Matthews had two goals and an assist in three games with Team North America at the World Cup. … Karlsson had a goal and three assists in four games for Team Sweden.

View More