Properly rebuilding an iconic NHL franchise is what keeps Brendan Shanahan busy these days. And being given the chance to pick first at the NHL draft come June, the Toronto Maple Leafs president, who got his own three Stanley Cup rings as a player, is right on track.
For the first time in more than 30 years, the Maple Leafs will be in a position to potentially pick the hockey prodigy, the Arizona-born Auston Matthews, since the Saskatoon Blades Wendel Clark selection in 1985.
Will the addition of American center Matthews boost the team’s chance to rise as quickly as possible from the bottom during the 2015-16 regular season? If the electrifying matchup between Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals during last Saturday’s Game 2 of the second-round series is the basis, even with new head coach Mike Babcock and 6-foot-2, 195-pound Matthews on the team would make it difficult for Toronto to be a potential contender, as reported by CBC Sports.
“We’re going to pick the player we think is best,” Shanahan said, according to The Star. “We have a good idea who that player is.” He also confirmed that their scouts were pleased, but they still require serious talks before revealing anything.
During the 36 games Matthews had with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss National League A, the Southern hockey superstar checked in with 24 goals and 46 points.
According to CBC Sports, even 1995-96 Stanley Cup winner coach Marc Crawford of the Colorado Avalanche has good things to say about the consensus first overall pick. As his former coach in Switzerland, Crawford believed Matthews’ speed and drive to the net is likened to Anze Kopitar, and his rebound-knocking skills around the crease is no different than Jamie Benn’s touch.
Matthews couldn’t hide his feelings, though, according to The Star. During his Helsinki training for the world championship, he said, “The opportunity to be drafted and make an NHL team in the fall is really exciting.”
But whether Matthews is going to expedite the Leafs rebuild or not, it won’t be confirmed until the June 24 draft in Buffalo.