World Cup could accelerate Auston Matthews’ growth

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When it comes to developing prospects, the process boils down to a mixture of planning and luck.

Auston Matthews‘ decision to spend a year overseas playing against grown men falls under the category of clever planning. Getting a chance to compete in what he acknowledges as a “best-on-best” tournament via the 2016 World Cup? That’s a little more on the serendipitous side.

This opportunity plays nicely for the Toronto Maple Leafs – health permitting – as he gets another taste of competition against professionals before he even plays a game in the NHL.

As Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli mentions to the National Post, he already stood out during the world championships, and he could really enjoy a coming out party this month.

“We went into the tournament saying, ‘Let’s see how he does.’ And it was just too hard to ignore. He played too well,” Chiarelli said of Matthews. “He had a hell of a tournament against world-class players.

“In that Canada game, he was arguably the best player on the ice.”

He made quite a few headlines thanks to moves like these.

As Matthews told Sportsnet, merely training with high-level players and facing off against others is a boost for the young forward.

“Just being here for two days now, I’ve really learned a lot and it’s really progressed a lot,” Matthews said.

Matthews and the Maple Leafs still have plenty to prove, but this seems like a great way for him to ramp up to the NHL level.