BUFFALO — The changing face of the NHL was on display Friday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs made Arizona native Auston Matthews the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft.
Matthews became interested in hockey when he attended a Phoenix Coyotes game at the age of 3. Matthews’ mother was born in Mexico and his father grew up in California. He is the first No. 1 pick to be developed in a Sun Belt market.
“What is says is that Commissioner Gary Bettman did an incredible job to keep that franchise there (in Arizona),” said Don Granato, who coached Matthews in the U.S. National Team Development Program. “Who knows, Auston could have been a baseball player. He has elite-level athleticism. He would have been successful in whatever sport he played.”
The Maple Leafs are not going to get caught up in comparisons or projections about how quickly Matthews will dominate.
“He can be Auston Matthews, a real good player who is going to be a dominant center for the Leafs playing with or without the puck,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said….