What we know about Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs’ semi-enigmatic young star
To a city that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967—and a fanbase that hasn’t quite recovered from that unpleasantness in Boston a few years ago—Auston Matthews looks like the best thing since Mats Sundin. The 19-year-old phenom was last year’s first-overall draft pick, and his first season with the Leafs has been going well so far: he leads the entire roster with 40 goals. Tonight, he heads into his first NHL playoff game, the first in a best-of-seven series against the Washington Capitals.
As impressive as Matthews is, he’s still a little mysterious. The Leafs aren’t letting him do lengthy sit-down interviews with reporters, leaving fans to make do with occasional locker-room glimpses at their new favourite guy. Here’s everything we know about the young man who might actually, possibly, finally, one day bring the Cup back to Toronto.
Matthews and that unstoppable wrist shot go way back
In 2010, Matthews took a trip to the Tournoi International de Hockey Pee-Wee de Québec. The competition is a well-known showcase for young talent, and it’s where future hockey stars get early experience humiliating goalies. Matthews played with a Ukrainian team, Druzhba-78 Kharkov, because his coach, Boris Dorozhenko, had a relationship with the organization.
This clip shows a smaller, grainier Matthews scoring, around the 6:40 mark:
He celebrates the same way when he scores today:
Back then, Matthews wore number 8:
— Pee-Wee Quebec (@tournoipeewee) December 28, 2016
Matthews trained like a figure skater
If—um, when—Matthews hoists the Stanley Cup in Toronto, fans may have Dorozhenko to thank for putting the young player through an unusual course of skill development. Dorozhenko, who once lived with Matthews’ grandparents, told ESPN he’s stingy with pucks, and gives them to players “as candy only as they start to produce.”
Here, we see Matthews nail a couple of mid-air pirouettes:
Matthews also appeared in a promotional video for Dorozhenko. Look for him at the 35-second mark:
It looks like the pair get along great, whether they’re in Zurich…
In Zurich with this young man! pic.twitter.com/xGA8Y128P3
— Boris Dorozhenko (@nghockey) March 21, 2016
Boris and Auston "Papi" Matthews at Phoenix camp. pic.twitter.com/78ycmNiL3u
— Boris Dorozhenko (@nghockey) June 18, 2015
Arizona media made a bold prediction about Matthews in 2014
Matthews was raised in Arizona, where he played with the Arizona Bobcats, an elite minor team, before moving to Michigan to play for the American under-17 team. After the move, he broke his femur in his second game, but healed in time for the under-18 world championship.
Taking in Matthews’ success, the Arizona Republic went out on an extremely short limb, noting that it “wouldn’t be unrealistic” for Matthews to one day play in the NHL, and called him “the player to watch in the 2016 draft.”
Here’s Matthews with the Bobcats, wearing number 34:
This appears to be him scoring an empty-netter for the Bobcats, at the 27:30 mark:
And here, at 1:07:30, he keeps a safe distance during a scrap as a game winds down:
Matthews likes baseball, recycling
Matthews was a talented baseball player as a kid, according to the New York Times. His uncle, a Coyotes season ticket holder, brought him to his first NHL game, along with his dad.
Matthews knows his way around the golf course, too:
…something he might’ve picked up from his, sister Breyana, who plays competitively.
The Times wrote about a surprising groundswell of hockey talent in Matthews’ home state, a long way from the nearest frozen pond. The next year, the paper wrote about Matthews’ unusual route to the NHL. While Matthews could have played major junior or college hockey in North America, he played pro in Switzerland, instead. The press over there took notice of jungstar Matthews.
While in Switzerland, Matthews missed Chipotle burritos, and he found the Swiss commitment to recycling “intense.” (His teammates welcomed him aboard by putting him on bus-cleaning duty.)
He also likes his family, carb-loading
Matthews was joined in Switzerland by his mother, Ema, who is originally from Mexico. She cooked tortilla soup for him and his teammates to mark her son’s birthday. He also likes sushi, rap, and dressing like Dick Tracy.