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World Championship

NHL Draft: Top prospects Matthews, Laine face off

Each player has an assist in Finland defeat of U.S. in World Championship pre-tournament game

by @NHL

United States center Auston Matthews and Finland right wing Patrik Laine, the top two players on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, went head-to-head during a 2016 IIHF World Championship pre-tournament game in Helsinki, Finland, on Tuesday.

Each player had an assist in Finland's 3-2 overtime win.

Matthews, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound center, is No. 1 on Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters. He assisted on a goal by Minnesota Wild forward Jordan Schroeder that tied the game 1-1 18:15 into the first period.

He played this season for Zurich in National League A, the top professional league in Switzerland. He had 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games, won the league's Rising Star award and finished second in voting for league MVP as an 18-year-old. He also helped the United States win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, tying Laine for the tournament lead with seven goals in seven games. His goal total was one shy of Jeremy Roenick's U.S. record of eight goals at the 1989 WJC. He also tied for the U.S. lead with 11 points and was named to the tournament all-star team.

Laine, a 6-4, 206-pound right wing, is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters. He assisted on a goal by Detroit Red Wings forward Teemu Pulkkinen to give Finland a 2-1 lead 1:31 into the second.

He had 10 and goals and 15 points in 18 playoff games to help Tappara win the championship in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and was named postseason MVP. He also helped Finland win the gold medal at the WJC, tying Matthews for the tournament lead in goals and earning a spot on the WJC All-Tournament Team.

The 2016 NHL Draft is June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov scored 2:58 into overtime to give Finland the victory.

"It was good to get a game under our belt," said U.S. coach John Hynes, who also is coach of the New Jersey Devils. "It was a close, competitive game in a great environment that included a lot of different situations. We're disappointed that we didn't come out on top obviously, but this is a game we'll learn from and use to get ready for our game with Canada on Friday."

The World Championship runs May 6-22 in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. The U.S. plays its first game of the preliminary round against Canada on Friday in St. Petersburg. The U.S. and Finland will play a preliminary-round game May 9 in St. Petersburg.

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