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Auston Matthews is one Olympics Away from Being an American Sports Icon

Auston Matthews is a generational talent player. The first overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016, he was awarded the Calder Trophy in the same season and has led his team to the playoffs in his only 2 years in the NHL. Matthews has already had a sizzling hot start to the 2018-19 campaign with 5 goals and 3 assists in his first 3 games. He is a 21-year-old phenom, and while yes, he’s a well-known asset in NHL circles his talent and appeal has not yet extended much past the Toronto or even the NHL scene.

Auston is an electric player. He plays with the ability to create scoring opportunities out of thin air, whether for himself or his teammates. He plays a 200ft game being equally as big a menace in the defensive zone as he is on offence.  He is the definition of a clutch player who is ALWAYS there for the big moments and shines in them. Armed with a lightning quick wrist shot release and some of the best skating in the league, he is currently one of the most dangerous players in the league.

 

Auston missed a major opportunity to potentially enter the pantheon of American sports icons last winter at the Pyeong Chang, South Korea, Olympics. With NHL players not being allowed to attend the games for the first time since 1995, Matthews, a Phoenix Arizona native, was forced to miss his first opportunity to represent his country in hockey’s largest international competition. An honour he most certainly would have been invited to partake in, and likely would have been the first line centre.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 2.44.13 PM
ESPN’s projected pairings from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. The NHL did not allow its players to attend and instead, National Teams had to find other players to fill out its lineups.

The Olympics more than anything have the ability to gather the American attention for hockey in such a way that the NHL does not. The two-week long tournament is easier to focus in on and easier for the nation as a whole to grasp and gather behind.

The Olympics have made hockey stars out of far less talented players than Matthews. In the 2012 Sochi Olympics, the hero of the Olympics for the Americans was T J Oshie who still to this day is designated and noted as an “Olympic Hero”. Not to disrespect Oshie, who is a great player, he doesn’t have a thing on Auston Matthews. Matthews is built for big moments and clutch situations. But he is also far more of a character compared to many of his NHL peers.

The NHL isn’t exactly known for its characters, Alex Ovechkin is one player that comes to mind immediately but, after that, the list is pretty short. Auston Matthews knows a big moment and celebrates in it. In his 2 years and 3 games career, he already has more memorable celebrations than the majority of players.

Matthews has all the makings of a Super Star. He is immensely talented, entertaining, and clutch. The American public is ready for a new Captain America on the Ice, and especially one who is only 21. The next winter Olympics is in Beijing China in 2022, and the USA better get to know and be ready for #34.

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