Share this article

print logo

It's official: Auston Matthews the top pick at the NHL Draft

No drum roll necessary. Go ahead and drop “presumptive” from his title as the No. 1 overall pick at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

The Auston Matthews era begins now.

As expected for a year, Matthews was the top pick in First Niagara Center Friday night. As anticipated since April when Toronto won the league’s draft lottery, the 18-year old is a Maple Leaf.

The Buffalo Sabres faithful fans gave lusty boos to the Maple Leafs as they announced the pick before giving way to cheers when Matthews named was announced. He hugged his family, took off his suit coat and walked to the stage, shaking hands with the Toronto staff before donning the Maple Leaf jersey (to a mix of cheers and boos).

"My heart was beating. Very nerve wrecking," Matthews said. "Once they called my name it was a sigh of relief. ... It was a dream come true. It meant so much for me to get to this point. A lot of sacrifice."

Matthews becomes the first player from a warm-weather climate to be the No. 1 pick. He grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, having his breakout season in Midget hockey, racking up 100 points with 55 goals for the Arizona Bobcats. That led to a spot on the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons.

His September birthday kept out of last year’s draft and instead of opting for college or major juniors, he spent a season as a pro in the Swiss National League where he continued to turn heads and set records.

Matthews becomes the first U.S.-born player take No. 1 since Buffalo native Patrick Kane was selected by Chicago first in 2007. He is just the seventh American taken first since 1963 joining Kane, Erick Johnson (2006, St. Louis), Rick DiPietro (2000, NY Islanders), Bryan Berard (1995, Ottawa), Mike Modano (1988, Minnesota North Stars) and Brian Lawton (1983, Minnesota North Stars).

Matthews joins a Toronto franchise which has not been to the playoffs since 2012-13. The Maple Leafs finished last in the NHL this past season. They were 27th in 2014-15 and 23rd in 2013-14.

There are no comments - be the first to comment