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NHL Draft

Maple Leafs have 'big decision' at No. 1: report

Babcock says 'it's exciting' to choose between Matthews, Laine

by @NHL

Mike Babcock said the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't decided between Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"Elite players. We're going to have a big decision in the end," the Toronto coach told Postmedia on Saturday at the 2016 IIHF World Championship, where Matthews and Laine are playing for the United States and Finland, respectively.

"It's exciting for us. We've all spent a long time watching these players. [Maple Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter], in the end, that's why we pay him the big bucks, to make that decision. I'm sure we'll all have some input. But we're excited."

Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., has been considered the consensus top prospect and is ranked No. 1 by NHL Central Scouting on its final list of international skaters. He played for Zurich in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league this season and finished second in voting for the league's most valuable player award.

But Laine has attracted attention by winning playoff MVP in Liiga, the top league in Finland, and with his play at the World Championship, where he has five goals and nine points in five games.

Babcock said Matthews, Laine and Finland forward Jesse Puljujarvi "will play in the [NHL] for sure (next season), without any question."

"They're not going to be dominant players right away. I'm not saying that at all. But they're going to be good players," he said.

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