At the outset of World Cup training camp, North America defenseman Aaron Ekblad was asked about Auston Matthews, and he expressed a little bit of envy about the opportunity the No. 1 overall pick was going to get.
Matthews was getting a shot at playing hockey at its highest level, with and against the best players in the world, before ever setting foot in training camp as a rookie.
The route Matthews has taken to his rookie season now becomes a one-of-a kind route. He played with and against pros in Switzerland. Then he played with and against the world’s best in Toronto. Now, he gets to start his NHL career with the knowledge that he can compete at the highest level.
Matthews was already confident in his ability, but this just reinforced what he believes. He’s going to be very good this season, perhaps better than we initially realized.
A tournament like the World Cup can have that impact.