The Vancouver Canucks are preparing for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.
Unfortunately, the 2015-16 season was cut short for the Vancouver Canucks, which means we have a long offseason ahead of us. Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the time to prepare next season’s roster, and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will certainly play an important part in that process.
Vancouver started off strong in the fall of 2015 but ended the season with a thud. Thanks to their abysmal 28th rank in the league standings, the Canucks own seven picks early in each round. Benning did a great job in his first two years at the job and another successful draft could certainly help boost the rebuild.
Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming event by profiling as many draft-eligible players as we possibly can. Keep in mind that we are not saying these are players the Canucks are targeting. Instead, these are players that we think the Canucks could or should have interest in.
Today we are looking at the consensus No. 1 selection, Auston Matthews of the NLA’s ZSC Lions.
Name: Auston Matthews
Height, weight: 6’2”, 194 lbs
Team/League: ZSC Lions, NLA
Stats (from eliteprospects.com):
36 24 22 46 6 16
NHL CSS Ranking: 1st (North American Skaters)
Risk, Reward: 1/5, 5/5
NHL-potential: Franchise Centre
Draft Range: Top 3
"A high octane dynamo that thrives under the microscope, Auston Matthews is a complete offensive forward who consistently boasts quick hands, feet, and thinking at both ends of the ice. Naturally nimble skater that accelerates to top speed very quickly. An unwavering focus on fine tuning elements of his own game facilitates confidence and competence in his young, but mature, mind. Prolific goal scoring ability and doesn’t wait for opportunities to show themselves. He makes his own luck, so to speak, maximizing the use of his body and stick to gain leverage against the toughest of opponents. All-in-all, a generational talent that has the potential to develop into a top flight franchise center. (Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects 2016)"
Move the puck, pass the puck, shoot the puck — Auston Matthews can do it all. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound centre has dominated offensively on every level he’s played on and he continued to do so playing professionally in Switzerland. His 1.28 points per game ranked second in the NLA.
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Watching Matthews’ highlight reel, you will not see as many fancy dangles as you see from players like Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi. Instead, you see many scenes where he just has to “put it in” after being set up by a teammate. That is not because his teammates are much better than him but because he is always in the right place at the right time.
Still, Matthews has the skill to separate himself from his opponents in 1-on-1 situations.
What really stands out about Matthews, however, is his elite-level vision and hockey IQ. He is such a smart player who gets himself in perfect scoring position and sees teammates he can set up for scoring chances in return.
Furthermore, Matthews has a powerful, accurate wrist shot which has led to many goals and several scoring chances.
Matthews displays a high skill-set and connects it well with his explosive skating and powerful frame. He uses his speed to power past defencemen and protects the puck extremely well thanks to perfect body positioning, a good reach and a strong frame.
Matthews’ playing style has led to comparisons with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. A strong centre who combines elite hockey IQ with terrific offensive skills and solid two-way play.
Are we allowed to leave this blank? Maybe question if he can translate his physical advantage or his shot to the NHL level? No, that would just be silly.
Auston Matthews missed being eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft by two days. Most scouts agree that — had he been born two days earlier — he would have been the No. 3 pick at last year’s draft. Others said he would have had a shot at No. 2. Either way, many call him a generational talent and he has enough potential to become that post-Sedin franchise centre for the Vancouver Canucks.
Of course, drafting Matthews is only realistic if Vancouver picks first overall, because Matthews is the consensus No. 1 selection. Whichever team drafts him will get an NHL-ready forward who can play a top-six role immediately.
If the Canucks ended up drafting him and decided they wanted Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat as their top three centres and did not want to have Matthews on their fourth line, the American could also start his North American career in the AHL. He’s way too good for that but, you know, it’s technically possible.