Matthews on draft lottery results: ‘A lot of mixed emotions’


In all likelihood, Zurich centreman Auston Matthews will become the first player since Wendell Clark to be selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs at an NHL Entry Draft. Some hot takes might be written about how the Leafs should select Patrik Laine, particularly if the big Finnish forward outperforms Matthews at the upcoming World Championships. Matthews should be the guy no matter what though and we all know it.

So how did the American-born forward react to the Maple Leafs’ big draft lottery win on Saturday night? Well he wasn’t exactly banging pots with a spoon out the window, even if he didn’t quite grimace like McDavid at the thought of wintering in the big smoke. 

“Very nerve racking, a lot of mixed emotions, but it’s pretty exciting to be a part of,” Matthews said, in answer to a question about the draft lottery process itself.

So… Is the fact that Matthews doesn’t share Leafs Nation’s massive enthusiasm for Saturday night’s events something to worry about?

Sorry for giving you the ‘read more’ cliffhanger, because the answer here is obvious: Not even a little bit. Matthews was on a tape delay from Finland, where it was 3 a.m., at the time. He’s probably dog tired and his reaction to a question that wasn’t even about Toronto or the Maple Leafs specifically gives us literally zero damn insight into what’s going on in his head. And it’s certainly nothing to worry about.

“It’s nice to have a little bit of clarity, though you know, nothing is set in stone,” Matthews continued. “We’re still a ways away from the draft so I’m just trying to stay in the moment right now, enjoy my time here and focus on the World Championships.”

Matthews didn’t say a word specifically about Toronto or the Maple Leafs during his brief, videolink teleconference with Canada’s hockey-watching public. We might also note that there’s a level of modesty that’s expected in hockey culture. Matthews wasn’t even willing to acknowledge that he’s the consensus top prospect on the board at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft!

Update: Though Matthews had nothing specifically to say about Toronto on the Sportsnet broadcast, he did call the possibility “special” when discussing things with TSN’s James Duthie (as pointed out in the comments).

“The idea of playing in Toronto, if they were to choose me, it’s pretty exciting,” Matthews said on TSN on Saturday, courtesy Josh Gold-Smith of theScore. “It would be very special.”

“It’s the hockey mecca of the world,” Matthews continued. “They have one of the best coaches in the league and it’s a very exciting place to play. Their fans are very passionate and I think everybody really enjoys watching them play.”

So yeah, there is zero cause for concern here. It’s barely worth mentioning, except for the fact that we all know this is going to be mentioned frequently over the next 24 hours.

Toronto is a pretty great town. Even if Matthews doesn’t immediately fall for the city when he arrives in the late summer, he’ll surely fall for the additional endorsement money he’s due to make just by virtue of wearing that Maple Leafs crest on his sweater. Let’s not make mountains out of molehills here.

Although if we insisted on building a molehill mountain, or a range of molehill mountains even, perhaps we could focus on Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who admitted that going through the draft lottery process’ rattled’ him.

“I’m just still a little bit rattled from this whole experience,” Shanahan said on the Sportsnet broadcast following his club’s big lottery win. “That was a pretty tense moment for all of us. Just to get into the final three, even, with Columbus, Winnipeg and us – we all felt pretty good that we were getting a good player..

“We earned this the hard way,” Shanahan continued. “It wasn’t a whole lot of fun this year.”

Look if Shanahan can’t hold up under the heat and tension of a televised lottery process, how is he going to go toe-to-toe with rival NHL executives or the likes of Kurt Overhardt and Don Meehan in a tough negotiation?

See how silly it is in another context to make way too much of the specific words said by someone reacting in real time to a major event on live television? So let’s not do it with Matthews, how about?

  • Mitch92

    As far as I am concerned, Matthews is not the be all and end all of this lottery win. Now the Leafs have the hammer and can wield it as they choose based on what is best for the franchise moving forward. It is rumored that the Columbus Blue Jackets want to get both the Finns. But what if the Leafs want both the Finns as well? Would the Winnipeg Jets be willing to move their pick? It would take a huge package if we are keeping the top pick. Maybe next year’s first AND JVR? Other options could include dealing with Phoenix but it would take a lot to convince Lou and Shanny to move down to seventh spot. Perhaps the seventh overall AND Domi, Duclair and Dvorak? Another option is dealing with Edmonton for McDavid? So many options to consider.


    I gave Mitch92 a thumbs UP because at least he’s thinking out loud like all of the Leafs brass should be doing.

    The Leafs wield a lot of power with that first pick and Lou being Lou, along with input from Hunter, who knows where this is going. Matthews played just 36 games this seasons, less than half of what a full AHL pr NHL season will demand.

    I think pre-draft interviews with the players and the people around them will be keys in the ultimate decision.

  • Brent Wisken

    After the draft lottery process this evening, James Duthie (TSN) interviewed Matthews and asked him what it would be like to play in Toronto. Matthews said it would be “special” to play in Toronto “if they were to choose me”, Toronto is the “hockey mecca” of the world with “one of the best coaches in the league”, and an “exciting place to play”, with “passionate fans”. He said it doesn’t matter to him if he plays in Canada or not, he just wants to play in the NHL, and would be “honoured” to play for any team. He actually came across as very modest and level-headed.

    Link to the TSN video right here:

  • CMpuck

    Only deal I could see would be something like Laine + Trouba for Matthews + Pitts 1st or Gardiner?

    Meh, as far as Im concerned signing Stamkos and drafting Liljegren next year would be a dream complete rebuild.

  • CMpuck

    Crazy how the one year that the consensus no. 1 overall pick is not a good ol’ Ontariah boy Leafa win the lottery. And on top of that the kid is that ‘big franchise centre’ that we so desperately need.

  • Mitch92

    it’s not a done deal. a 6’4 17-year-old just single-handedly won the playoff final series in a top mens league. how can the Leafs pass that over? and, he would complement marner &/or nylander, rather than push them down the pecking order, with someone’s nose and ego out-of-joint. so, to me it’s a coin-toss. also, a trade with phoenix could see Leafs ‘balanced’ line combos of: Strome-Marner and Nylander-Nylander.