European team: Zurich (Swiss League)
Born: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 210 pounds
2015-16 stats: 40 games, 24 goals, 25 assists, 49 points
Central Scouting rank: No. 1 (Europe)
Lowdown: With Matthews set to head to Toronto with the No. 1 overall pick, the hype is growing fast. The 18-year-old missed the eligibility cutoff for last year’s draft by two days, and folks are now saying he’d have been in the conversation with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel for best player available.
After being one of the elite players in the Swiss League (he chose to play professionally rather than dominate at the junior or college level), he was one of the best at the world championships. He led the United States with six goals, one shy of the tournament’s top spot held by Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings and Finnish forward Patrik Laine, who is also eligible for this year’s draft. Matthews put the underdog Americans into the semifinals by scoring in regulation and the shootout for a 2-1 victory over Czechia.
Matthew’s size and quickness set him apart from his peers. He gets a step on opponents and can shield the puck with his body. He has a goal scorer’s touch but is also adept at making the smart pass. His two-way game is surprisingly good for a young player. He’s motivated to be the best. Matthews will become the Maple Leafs’ No. 1 center, and Sabres fans will see and hear a lot about him for years to come.
They said it: “Auston plays a different game than Eichel. He's a strong, powerful player. Eichel does it with power and grace with that long stride. Auston does it with pure strength and quickness. It's a different kind of quickness. His compete level is off the charts, and he thinks the game so well.” – David Gregory, NHL Central Scouting, to NHL.com.
The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL Draft, which will be held June 24-25 in First Niagara Center.