Auston Matthews, who many project to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is playing for Zurich in Switzerland's top professional league this season. Matthews is currently playing for the U.S. national junior team in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland. NHL.com will follow his journey leading to the NHL Draft this season with a weekly update.
Auston Matthews is certainly no stranger to representing the United States in pressure-packed international events and Saturday was no exception against rival Canada to open the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship at Helsinki Ice Hall.
Matthews, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Draft, had a goal, two points, a plus-1 rating and led his team with three shots on goal in a 4-2 victory against Canada. The United States will play Sweden on Monday in the second of four preliminary round games before the playoff round.
"It was a really intense game, really back and forth and I thought everyone was competing hard and we were able to capitalize on some big chances," Matthews told USAHockey.com. "Getting Canada right off the bat, we needed to be ready. I think everybody played well. We were up for the challenge. It was a good win."
Matthews always seems to thrive in pressure situations. In April, he was named most valuable player and best forward while helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Switzerland.
He had eight goals, 15 points and a plus-11 rating in seven games in the World U-18 Championship. He skated in that tournament on the top line with left wing Matthew Tkachuk, an A-rated skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list, and right wing Jack Roslovic, a first-round choice (No. 25) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets.
Matthews entered the 2016 WJC on a line with Tkachuk and right wing Alex DeBrincat, also an A-rated skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list. When DeBrincat received a game misconduct against Canada late in the first period for spearing, Matthews never missed a beat with new linemate Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks).
He has a knack for being able to adjust to any situation and with any type of player.
"I think [Matthews] has the potential to be really special [in the NHL]," NHL Network hockey analyst Dave Starman said. "I think he's so emotionally grounded and has so much unique experience for his age. He's got all the tools to become that player that can be a really impactful NHL player for a really long time."