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The Leafs Have Their Center

from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,

Now he becomes the most important player to pull on a Leafs sweater in more than three decades.

The team will be mindful not to bill him as such, but after essentially punting on the 2015-16 season to set itself up for the chance to pick No. 1, it’s tough to conclude otherwise. Matthews is the organization’s first top draft choice since Wendel Clark in 1985 and stands to become the cornerstone piece of a long-overdue rebuild.

Scouts project him out as a high-end No. 1 centre – the Leafs haven’t had one of those since Mats Sundin – and some compared him to Joe Sakic during a draft year where he dominated the Swiss League while playing for the Zurich Lions.

That Matthews will enter the NHL as a player of high interest during its centennial season is only fitting. Roughly 25 years have passed since the league embarked on a sunbelt expansion strategy designed to attract new fans and players to the sport.

He instantly becomes a poster child for that movement.

more

from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,

The night the Maple Leafs fortunes changed: Maybe, forever.

There have been four great Leafs centremen in my lifetime: Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour and Mats Sundin. All in the Hall of Fame. And now a new day. A new name. A new possibility to build around.

Auston Matthews, the teenager from Arizona, the fresh-faced blue and white saviour. For a franchise that once upon a time won championships, once upon a time contended, but has never been blessed with an abundance of high-end talent, now has a player who could possibly eclipse Keon and Sittler, the short run of Gilmour and the long run of Sundin. He won’t win, can’t win, the four Cups Keon brought home. That isn’t possible anymore. Sittler, Gilmour, Sundin never played for a Stanley Cup as a Leaf. Matthews has an opportunity to be that special player.

An NHL scout yesterday repeated what he’d told me before: “He’s Anze Kopitar with better offence.” Two years ago, Wayne Gretzky called Kopitar the third best centre in the world behind Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. If this is who Matthews is and what he will become, then the Leafs have a piece they have so rarely owned before.

Who wins Stanley Cups? Teams with overwhelming first-line centremen: Crosby, Toews, Kopitar. Before that Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Trottier. Before that, Jean Beliveau, Keon, Phil Esposito.

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: auston+matthews

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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