Auston Matthews turned 18 yesterday — and in his first pro game (which he played today), he managed to find the back of the net.
Not a bad birthday present for the Scottsdale, Arizona native.
Stipulations included in his work permit, which enable him to play overseas in the Tier one Swiss – A league in Zuoz, Switzerland, prevented the 2016 draft prospect from playing in a game until his eighteenth birthday. That meant the centre prospect has been waiting for a while now to finally get his shot.
Looks like he made it worth it, all right.
It’s immediately easy to see him on the ice, because he’s one of the fastest guys out there. Beyond that, though, his ability to read the play — passing to teammate Chris Baltisberger, then setting himself up in front of the net to either receive a pass back or catch a rebound — is clearly already at a pro level. It seems that his scoring at the junior level (where the U18 World Juniors MVP managed to produce 15 points in 7 international games at the U18 WJC, which supplemented his 55 goals in 60 games with the USDP during the regular season) translates pretty well to, at the very least, the Champions League over in Europe.
Of course, this is something that Matthews is probably as excited about as the fans watching him. The Arizona native, projected to go first overall at the draft this summer, has been looking forward to getting the chance to play once his birthday finally rolled around. Per NHL.com, back when he first announced the decision to play overseas:
“I can practice with the team and work out with them; just not play in any games until after my birthday,” Matthews said. “I’ll have my mom there with me the whole season, so I think it’ll be a good experience. I really think just playing for an NHL coach and playing against older competition is really going to push me to raise my level each game.”