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World Cup

Matthews: World Cup selection is 'huge honor'

Projected No. 1 pick in 2016 NHL Draft says Team North America can surprise

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Auston Matthews wasn't sure what to think when he finished a workout Friday and listened to a message from Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman asking him to return his call.

Bowman and Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli are the co-GMs of Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

"I called back immediately and he said to me, 'Auston, this is Stan Bowman and I want to let you know that you've been added to the roster for Team North America in the World Cup' and I was like, 'Wow,' " Matthews, projected by many to be No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, told on Monday.

Matthews, 18, is the youngest player on the 23-man roster, which consists of the best players age 23 and younger as of Oct. 1 from Canada and the United States. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound, left-handed forward is here this week for the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine, which runs through Saturday.

"It's obviously a huge honor to represent that team but you look at the players that are already been selected and finalized, it's a pretty exciting team so to be a part of it is going to be something special," Matthews said. "This is definitely something you don't really see that often, so to have that dynamic (of American-born players with Canadian-born players) definitely is getting a lot of people excited.

"I think it's definitely a team that can surprise some people, so we'll see what happens."

The eight-team 2016 World Cup of Hockey will be played Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. All games will be televised by ESPN in the United States and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the 2016 draft. He's coming off an exceptional season playing for Zurich in the National League A, Switzerland's top professional league. In an unconventional decision, Matthews decided to play overseas in his draft-eligible season instead of remaining in North America and playing college or junior hockey.

In 36 games he had 24 goals and 46 points in Switzerland, won the league's Rising Star award and finished second in voting for most valuable player.

He has won three gold medals and one bronze medal in six career international events for the United States. He hopes to earn a fourth medal at the World Cup of Hockey.

Matthews won a bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland in January after scoring seven goals and 11 points in seven games. He most recently led the United States with six goals and tied for the lead with nine points at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia.

His play in the World Championship certainly made believers out of Bowman and Chiarelli.

Team North America, which will be coached by Todd McLellan (Edmonton Oilers), will offer speed, strength and plenty of creativity. Matthews joins a star-studded lineup that includes 2015-16 Calder Trophy Memorial finalists Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia Flyers). It also features Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings).

Matthews skated with Eichel and Larkin at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, and again with Larkin at the 2016 World Championship.

"I didn't text (Eichel or Larkin) but they sent me a text of congratulations," Matthews said. "I was in Russia with Larkin during the World Championship so it was good to kind of just hang out with him. I'm very excited and honored to be a part of this team and looking forward to it."

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