When Auston Matthews was 12 years old, he got on a plane from his home in Arizona and flew across the country for a one-game tryout with a team from Ukraine. He scored three goals in a period. That earned him a spot in the Quebec Peewee tournament. A couple years later, he arrived at the tryout for USA Hockey’s national development team program. Charlie McAvoy hadn’t heard of him before then and was placed on his team for scrimmages. It didn’t take him long to realize Matthews was special. “He did the Jason Blake-like spinarama and he didn’t even score,” said McAvoy. “It went wide, he slid it wide, but the goalie was all the way out of the net. He had beaten him pretty good and I just was like ‘Wow, I can’t believe that kid tried that.”’ Matthews was one of the top scorers in the Swiss league at age 18. He played for Team USA at the IIHF World Hockey Championship and starred for Team North America at the World Cup before ever playing an NHL game. Then he played his first for the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored four goals. This brief history of things is important to keep in mind with Matthews and the Maple Leafs facing elimination sooner than they ever imagined on Saturday night. It has subjected the 20-year-old to an unfamiliar level of criticism – particularly in the wake of a flat performance against the Boston Bruins in Game 4, which put the Leafs down 3-1 in the series.
All eyes on Leafs’ Auston Matthews, for better or worse
Sportsnet | Apr 21