There was a belief in September that Auston Matthews would be the first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Now that we're a month away from the draft, which will be held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on June 24 and 25, NHL.com draft experts Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale each still has that belief and has Matthews going to the Toronto Maple Leafs with the No. 1 pick in his latest mock draft.
NHL.COM 2016 MOCK DRAFTS
• Adam Kimelman's mock draft
• Mike G. Morreale's mock draft
Matthews, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound center, has played well against older competition all season. He led the United States with six goals in 10 games at the 2016 IIHF World Championship after he had 46 points in 36 games with Zurich in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league. He also was named to Team North America for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Matthews is the only player on the 23-man roster of 23-and-under players from the U.S. and Canada not to play in the NHL.
Kimelman and Morreale also are in agreement that Finnish right wings Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi will go No. 2 to the Winnipeg Jets and No. 3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively.
Laine (6-4, 206) was named the most valuable player of the World Championship after he had seven goals and 12 points in 10 games to help Finland win the silver medal. He also was MVP of the playoffs in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, after helping Tappara to the championship. He will play for Team Finland at the World Cup in September.
Puljujarvi (6-3, 203) was MVP of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. His 17 points in seven games led the tournament and were one shy of tying Jaromir Jagr's tournament record for an under-18 player, achieved in 1990 for Czechoslovakia.
Left wing Matthew Tkachuk and defenseman Olli Juolevi, teammates with London in the Ontario Hockey League, round out the top five in each NHL.com expert's mock draft, but in different orders.
The order for the first 28 picks of the first round is set, with the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, which starts at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) determining the final two slots.
The Penguins and Sharks are two of the five teams that don't have a first-round pick. The Maple Leafs have the Penguins' pick from the Phil Kessel trade, and the Boston Bruins own the Sharks' pick from the trade for goaltender Martin Jones, each made last summer.
The Arizona Coyotes have the New York Rangers' pick from the Keith Yandle trade (2015); the Carolina Hurricanes own the Los Angeles Kings' selection from the trade for Andrej Sekera (2015); and the Winnipeg Jets acquired the Chicago Blackhawks' pick for Andrew Ladd this season.