Who Needs Auston Matthews Anyway?
No really, who?
18-year old Matthews, who missed the 2015 Draft eligibility cut off by mere days, is the consensus pick to go 1st overall when the NHL takes it’s slightly The Hunger Games-esque annual event to Buffalo on June 24th.
The Arizona native will be offered as tribute to baying fans, desperate to see their club rise to the top (again) and compete for a Cup, and with 19-goals and 32-points in just 26 games for the NLA Zurich Lions, the next Next One certainly looks set to be a boon to whichever club is lucky enough to win the draft lottery this year, when Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly will do his best to mix Effie Trinket with Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Here, One Puck Short looks at some of the best, and worst, possible landing spots for Matthews.
Note: All probability percentages taken from HockeyViz.com and correct to January 22nd 2016
Columbus Blue Jackets
Having traded #1 centre Ryan Johansen to Nashville for Seth Jones, the Blue Jackets both acquired a potential #1 defenceman and signalled that they have basically mailed it in for the year.
Given the fractured nature of the club’s relationship with Johansen, there is perhaps no shame in wishing to reboot things by moving the 23-year old in order to fill another gaping hole in your line up while calmly allowing ones self to drift away at the bottom for the rest of the year if it means landing Matthews.
Moving forward it would also give the Blue Jackets a core of Matthews, Jones, Brandon Saad, Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg, Ryan Murray, Sonny Milano and maybe Kerby Rychel – if they can fix that relationship.
That is not a horrendous group to face the future with…
Blue Jackets Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 15%
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have been the butt of many-a-joke in recent years.
Even their lone post-lockout playoff appearance ended in heartbreak, when the Boston Bruins scored four straight goals to win game seven of their Eastern Conference Quarter Final clash in overtime.
Things seemed to finally turn a corner last season though, when the club initiated a long needed overhaul.
Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello formed a new brain trust at the head of the club, while Mike Babcock took the reigns behind the bench.
With a bevy of good prospects already in the system, adding Matthews would not only provide the Maple Leafs with their first top pick since 1985 (Wendel Clarke) but the lynchpin they have longed for since Mats Sundin departed.
That’s a thought that will either raise you up, or tear you down, depending on your proximity and feeling toward the ‘centre of the hockey universe’.
Maple Leafs Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 7%
Can you imagine? A year after winning the Connor McDavid sweepstakes the Oilers would have the opportunity to add the best American prospect in years (maybe ever?).
Once the rioting stops, the Oilers would find themselves in the unique position of possessing not one, not two, not three but FOUR (potentially) top six centres – including at least two who are projected to be top tier talents.
It would likely spell the end of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Alberta, but could earn the Oilers some much needed help along the blue line, or perhaps between the pipes (even with Cam Talbot’s recent extension).
It’s the kind of thing which could radically alter the Pacific Division and put Edmonton back among the big boys.
After everyone’s finished puking.
Oilers Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 12%
The honeymoon period is over for the Jets. The euphoria of having a team back gone, that first playoff foray done and dusted.
In a tough Central Division, Winnipeg needs to ensure it stays competitive, even if it loses star D man Dustin Byfuglien and/or Captain Andrew Ladd.
Already boasting one of the best groups of prospects and young players in the NHL, inserting Matthews in to the line up would undoubtedly help Winnipeg’s chances of running with some of the league’s toughest teams.
You have to wonder if there aren’t those at NHL HQ rooting for the Coyotes to miss the playoffs and then land the #1 pick – Scottsdale’s favourite son (unconfirmed) comes home; joining one of the most exciting groups of youngsters in the league and validating all of Gary Bettman’s faith in the project.
The young man inspired to take up hockey by the Coyotes, there to make the Coyotes a contender.
Coyotes Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 6%
An Eichel/Matthews 1-2 punch? Yikes!
It won’t help the Sabres questionable blue line, or answer any questions in net (though Linus Ullmark may have that covered…), but almost every great team had a vicious 1-2 punch at centre: Sakic and Forsberg, Gretzky and Messier, Crosby and Malkin etc.
With Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart, Buffalo’s top six could already be one of the most impressive in the league in years to come – then they add Matthews to that?!
Sabres Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 12%
Are the Canucks a team without a plan? We think so.
But adding Matthews to the mix might provide Vancouver with an easy out – the chance to undergo a soft reset on the fly, alleviating the pressure on the Sedin twins and creating an opportunity for Matthews to become the clubs new spearhead along side Jared McCann, Bo Horvat and break out defenceman Ben Hutton.
Canucks Probability of Landing the 1st Overall Pick: 7%
Here’s the full list run down via Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz: