Finally the franchise can get what it has needed since Mats Sundin departed town, a true number one centre and someone to build the team around. At 6 ‘2” and about 200 lbs., Auston Matthews is that elite franchise centre that the team needs.
Matthews had a good season with the ZSC Lions, picking up 24 goals and 46 points in a men’s league where it is quite difficult for young players to provide offence. He also recently had an impressive two-goal game at the World Championships for Team USA against Belarus.
Many scouts are comparing the 18 year-old centre to former Colorado Avalanche Captain Joe Sakic who had over 1,600 points in an impressive career spanning over 1,300 games. While it is not a sure thing that the Leafs will take Matthews, they would be foolish not to fill the biggest need on their roster.
Potentially, Matthews would join a roster that already includes homegrown talent such as the likes of budding star defenceman Morgan Rielly, flashy forward William Nylander, productive and irritating centre Nazem Kadri, talented Russian winger Nikita Soshnikov and possibly former first round pick Mitch Marner.
Of course, this is not yet a roster of a potential contender as there are still some holes to be filled. Toronto does not have a solid number one goaltender, as I am not convinced that Jonathan Bernier can be that type of goalie. Despite having a strong finish to the season after a slow start, Bernier still finished the season with a goals against average on the upper end of the spectrum at 2.88. The team also lacks a larger stay at home defenceman.
But at least this moves the rebuild forward as Toronto can start to add complimentary pieces around Auston Matthews at the draft and through trade and free agency to start to shape what could be a team that would contend for the Stanley cup every year. This also lessens the pain of the rebuild as the Maple Leafs have at least won something. Not since 1985 has the team drafted first overall, when they took Wendel Clark.
Leafs fans, the future is starting to look brighter.