Auston Matthews Tour's next stop: St. Paul
ST. PAUL--A little more than a week into a nascent NHL career, the Auston Matthews bandwagon is moving full steam ahead. Next stop, St. Paul. Matthews and the Maple Leafs will be at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night to play the Wild. "Anyone t...
ST. PAUL-A little more than a week into a nascent NHL career, the Auston Matthews bandwagon is moving full steam ahead. Next stop, St. Paul.
Matthews and the Maple Leafs will be at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night to play the Wild.
"Anyone that can go watch Auston Matthews play needs to go watch Auston Matthews play," said Toronto-based sports radio personality Matthew Cauz. "That kid is no doubt a star in the making."
Cauz said Matthews already had taken Toronto by storm before he scored an unprecedented four goals in his NHL debut, a 5-4 loss at Ottawa. That's when the rest of the NHL's fans began to take notice.
"Can Auston Matthews score 320 goals?" Wild coach Bruce Boudreau joked at the time.
Added Wild veteran winger Zach Parise: "I got one in my debut, and I thought that was pretty cool."
Matthews already has the best-selling sweater in the NHL. In fact, the team store at the Air Canada Centre had to quickly make more jerseys after his first game.
The Wild said as of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 20 NHL scouts had been credentialed for Thursday's game, the most she has ever seen for one game. The Wild, riding an 108-game sellout streak at Xcel Energy Center, are expecting every seat to be occupied.
Everyone wants to see Matthews, 19, play hockey.
Terry Koshan, who has covered the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Sun for 16 years, said the excitement around Matthews has been building in Toronto since last season, when it became clear the Maple Leafs would have the No. 1 pick in 2016 NHL Draft.
Toronto, an Original Six franchise, has been to the playoffs just once since the 2003-04 season, and hasn't advanced to a Stanley Cup Final in 48 years.
"It's given people here hope that there hasn't been in years," Koshan said. "Everyone was drooling over the fact that they might be able to get a player like that. Now everyone is starting to see what he's capable of, and it's only a week into his career."
Koshan noted that even usually stoic Leafs coach Mike Babcock struggled to contain himself after Matthews lit the lamp four times in his debut.
"It's not only the fans," Koshan said. "It's the players. It's the coaches. It's the whole NHL."
That includes the Wild. Forward Charlie Coyle said he watched the highlights of Matthews' debut with his teammates when the Wild were on the road last week.
"One (goal) in the debut is pretty cool. Two is awesome. Three is incredible," Coyle said. "I've been here five years, and I don't even have a hat trick yet. Four is showing off at that point."
Cauz said the fandom around Matthews will surely grow in Toronto.
"The moment the Toronto Blue Jays are finished (in the American League Championship Series), the amount of attention that's going to be on this kid is going to go way up," he said.
Cauz also hypothesized that Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., could soon start to attract the casual hockey fan in the United States. He compared Matthews to former star NBA point guard Steve Nash and the impact he had on casual basketball fans in Canada.
"Steve Nash was a player that made Canadians start to care a little more about the NBA," Cauz said. "Matthews could be that kind of player for Americans in the NHL. He could be the most popular player in the entire league simply for the fact that he's American. He helps the Maple Leafs tap into that untapped market."
Parise noted that while "it's going to be a hard pace to keep up" for Matthews, his continued emergence would be a definite positive for the sport.
"It's great for the league. It's great for him. It's great for USA Hockey," said Parise, a Minnesota native. "Hopefully, he keeps getting better and better. He's going to be a special player."
In his second game, Matthews was held scoreless on just two shots in the Maple Leafs' 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday. Coyle said he would like to see the Wild do something similar to the phenom on Thursday.
"You like to see things like that, as long as it's not against us," he said. "We hope he emptied out his goals last week."