Auston Matthews impresses despite Americans’ lopsided loss to Canada

Presumptive No. 1 NHL draft pick looks as good as advertised

Auston Matthews put forth an impressive curtain-raising performance to his 2016 IIHF World Championship. Unfortunately, most of his United States teammates did not follow his lead.

After the Canadians surrendered an early power-play goal to U.S. forward Patrick Maroon, they got to work to score five goals from five different players for a sound 5-1 win at the Yublieyny Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday.

Canada had too much depth for the U.S., superior goaltending from Cam Talbot and a commitment to defence that limited its opponents to only 25 shots on goal, including just three in the final 20 minutes.

U.S. goalie Keith Kinkaid of the New Jersey Devils was not up to snuff. He allowed a couple of softies and was outplayed by his Edmonton Oilers counterpart, Talbot.

Taylor Hall and Brendan Gallagher scored to give Canada a 2-1 lead in the first period. Matt Duchene increased Canada’s advantage to 3-1 through 40 minutes, while Boone Jenner and Brad Marchand added third-period goals.

No rink rust for Matthews

The 18-year-old Matthews, the consensus No. 1 selection for the NHL draft next month, started on a line with Jordan Schroeder and Maroon. But even though Maroon scored the lone goal for the U.S., on the power play, he later got into some penalty trouble and as a result others received auditions alongside Matthews and Schroeder.

Matthews came as advertised by Marc Crawford, his coach with the Zurich Lions. Crawford has remarked that the teenager is a complete player and the 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward exhibited a solid two-way game against Canada.

He made a pinpoint stretch pass to Schroeder and back-checked hard to break up a pass to Canadian forward Max Domi in the U.S. end.

He had not played since Zurich was unexpectedly swept in the first round of the Swiss National League A playoffs by SC Bern on Mar. 10.

Matthews, however, did not exhibit any rink rust. The highly-touted prospect, whom the Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to make the first overall selection on June 24, played the left point on the power play, killed penalties and won some key face offs.

McDavid, Duchene shine for Canada

The United States will attempt to get on track against Belarus on Saturday before the big showdown for Matthews when he goes up against Patrik Laine and Finland on Monday. Laine is the consensus No. 2 pick, but unlike Matthews, won the world juniors four months ago and was named the Jari Kurri winner as the MVP of the Finnish Liiga playoffs.

Whether or not Matthews will gain a roster spot alongside Connor McDavid on the under-24 Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey remains to be seen. Matthews has the remaining two weeks of the 16-country world championship tournament to demonstrate he belongs.

McDavid began the world championship on a line with Duchene and Marchand. McDavid, 19, was solid and employed his all-world speed to keep the U.S. defencemen on their heels.

Duchene, who scored four goals and 12 points in Canada’s successful gold-medal run at the world championship in Prague a year ago, was the class of the Canadian lineup in the opener.

He scored Canada’s third goal midway through the second period and brilliantly batted a pass out of the air during a U.S. power play to send Marchand in for a shorthanded goal in the third period.

The 25-year-old Duchene understandably was not among the nine forwards Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong named to the World Cup team on Mar. 2.

Duchene saw a limited role with Canada on the gold-medal winning team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and he certainly exhibited in Canada’s opener in St. Petersburg that he deserves a roster spot for the World Cup in September.

Article Written By: Tim Wharnsby with CBC Sports