Top NHL prospect Matthews earns Team North America WCup spot
After a two-month layoff, 18-year-old Auston Matthews used the world hockey championships to remind everyone of his potential as the NHL's top draft-eligible prospect.
It also was enough to convince general manager Peter Chiarelli to include the U.S.-born youngster among the final seven selections to Team North America's World Cup of Hockey roster Friday.
''He brought his game to another level,'' said Chiarelli, who also doubles as the Edmonton Oilers' GM. ''For me, he was the best if not one of the top two or three on that U.S. team.''
Matthews, who is from Scottsdale, Arizona, led the fourth-place Americans with six goals in 10 games at the tournament in Russia this past month. It was a significant performance for a youngster who spent the year playing professionally in Switzerland, and whose season ended abruptly when his team was eliminated from the playoffs in March.
Matthews play this past month helped re-establish his place as NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked prospect, and a shot to be selected by Toronto with the No. 1 pick in the draft on June 24.
''When his season ended a little abruptly, he was out of sight, out of mind,'' Chiarelli said. ''What we saw in the worlds, it was kind of there. He became a game-changer at that level, and we decided to put him on the roster.''
Matthews World Cup performance could serve as a preview to Maple Leafs fans, as the eight-team tournament will be held in Toronto in September. The second-ranked prospect, forward Patrik Laine, will also be competing after being selected to Finland's roster.
The North American team will consist of U.S.- and Canadian-born players 23 years and younger, and led by such up-and-coming stars as Edmonton's Connor McDavid, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Buffalo's Jack Eichel.
Chiarelli added more star power in rounding out the team's selections, with forwards Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton) and Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg), and defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia), Colton Parayko (St. Louis) and Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg).
Drouin overcame an up-and-down second NHL season in which he was demoted to the Lightning's American Hockey League team in Syracuse, New York, and then abruptly left the team in a bid to seek a trade. He rejoined Syracuse in March and was eventually recalled by Tampa Bay, where he scored five goals and had 14 points in 17 playoff games.
''You could see him gathering confidence,'' Chiarelli said about Drouin. ''At the end of the day, his playoffs, yeah, it really helped him.''
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.