BUFFALO -- Ottawa Senators assistant Marc Crawford said there is no doubt in his mind Auston Matthews' name should be the first one called in the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).
Last season, Crawford coached Matthews, a center who topped NHL Central Scouting's final rankings of European skaters eligible for the draft and is the presumptive No. 1 pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, with Zurich of National League A in Switzerland. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native had 24 goals in his first professional season to tie for fourth in the league and was second in voting for MVP.
After having witnessed Matthews' work habits on a daily basis, Crawford came away impressed by the 18-year-old's desire to be the best.
"There's no question in my mind he should be the first pick," said Crawford, who joined the Senators coaching staff under Guy Boucher on May 9. "To me, he's the whole package. He's got maturity, he's got huge upside. He wants to be the best player at everything he does. He's one of those players you watch at practice, he tries to win skating drills.
"We did this one drill, a stick-handling drill called the Yurzinov drill (named for famed Russian coach Vladimir Yurzinov), where guys would have to play follow the leader. Roman Wick, a former Senators pick, he had been coached by Yurzinov, so he was good at the movements. He would do it up one end, and we'd have Auston go at the other end. At the end of it, Auston was like a basketball player dribbling it between his legs. He's got amazing eye-hand coordination, and the dexterity he shows with his puck-handling is amazing."
Crawford said he saw Matthews show the ability to handle the puck in tight areas, a key to being successful in the NHL.
"That's what the NHL is now," Crawford said. "It's a game where you have a lot of short-area play, and he's a master at it already. I think he is going to develop into a franchise No. 1 center. When you think about a No. 1 center, he's everything that you would want. He's good on faceoffs, he's defensively conscious. He's only going to get better in that area. His offensive skills are off the chart."