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Pens marvel at Matthews

The 2016 first overall pick will visit Pittsburgh Saturday

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

After Toronto's Auston Matthews scored four goals in his NHL debut on Oct. 12 at Ottawa, the Pens locker room was buzzing in regards to what the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft had just done.

"Wow," is all defenseman Kris Letang could say the next day, after tweeting this when it happened:

Tweet from @Letang_58: Wow !!! @AM34 welcome to our beer league !!!' Lolll #congrats #easygame

Matthews became the first player in the modern era of the NHL (starting in 1943-44) to score four goals in his debut. The 19-year-old became the third-youngest player in NHL history to score four goals behind Bobby Carpenter (1981-82) and Jack Hamilton (1943-44), who each did it at 18.

"You saw Matthews last night, that was pretty incredible," Nick Bonino added. "He scored four goals in a debut. There's a lot of young talent in this league. It was pretty fun. We all definitely talked about Matthews, for sure."

It's pretty charming to watch the Pens players, especially the veteran ones, get excited as they discuss the incredible young talent in their league this year - specifically Matthews, Winnipeg's Patrik Laine and, of course, Edmonton's Connor McDavid.

It's to the point where even though the Pens already live hockey, they are turning their TVs on to watch this influx of young superstars.

"I usually don't watch a lot of hockey during the season," Eric Fehr said. "But with some of these young guys coming in, McDavid and Laine and Matthews, I might watch a few more games this year."

"It's great," Sidney Crosby said. "It brings excitement. Everybody watches a little bit closer because of those guys. To see them having such a big impact on the league for their team is definitely a good thing."

Now, just a few days after McDavid put on a show for the fans at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday by collecting three assists in Pittsburgh's 4-3 win over the Oilers, the Pens will host Matthews and the Maple Leafs on Saturday for another must-see matchup.

"It's exciting," Letang said. "The league's got a bunch of young superstars that are coming up. To have the chance to face them, to see what they got, is fun to watch."

While Fehr marveled at Matthews' accomplishment, he jokingly added that he could guarantee the rookie wouldn't score four every game. And of course, Matthews has cooled off since with just one assist in his last seven games.

But he's still tied for third in scoring among NHL rookies behind Laine and teammate William Nylander, and he's the kind of franchise player people get excited to watch.

One person who's gotten the chance to see Matthews up close is Matt Murray, who was his teammate on Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. And the Pens netminder certainly appreciates just how dangerous of a player he is.

"He's got a lot going for him," Murray said. "He's fast, he's big, he's strong, he can shoot. I think the biggest thing is he's not afraid to go to the net. It's hard to stop him when he's going full speed toward the net and that's where he scores a lot of his goals from. He was first overall, so he's a heck of a player and he's going to be tough to stop."

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