It’s impossible to put into words what this means for the franchise.

The opportunity to add a franchise player-calibre prospect at the top of the draft is not something that’s come around for the Leafs since 1985, and a young center of Auston Matthews’ pedigree is not something the Leafs have had in their possession since they traded the fruits of that 1985 pick, Wendel Clark, for a 23-year-old Mats Sundin nine years later. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, what the final number was in the Leafs‘ lucky combination:

Consider Saturday a night of redemption. The Maple Leafs, who entered with the best odds for the No. 1 overall pick, had some of the worst odds to win the lottery after the first three balls climbed up the chute.

Six. Eight. Five.

No. 13 was the only ball left that could deliver the No. 1 pick to Toronto. It was a scant 9 per cent shot.

– Frank Seravalli


Even if you don’t believe the Matthews pick is set in stone, the debate of Auston Matthews versus Patrik Laine is the best question this generation of Leafs fans has ever had to ponder. A stud center, or a winger so good and dynamic it makes you think about passing on said stud center? File that under, “great problem to have.”

Matthews (in all likelihood) will join a prospect pool that includes William Nylander and Mitch Marner — a triumvirate of potentially elite talents, two of which play center if the presumptive pick is Matthews, and all of which are likely NHL ready next season. The Maple Leafs organization has finally assembled the foundation of elite young players needed to contend one day, and while management’s work is far from over, this first overall pick starts to bring that window of contention into view.

Congratulations, Leafs fans. Lord knows you deserve it.

There will be a few months to go over every detail of what the Leafs are getting in Matthews as we approach draft day, but the 30-second rundown on his background is that he dismantled the competition on the US National U18 team, laying waste to the USNTDP record books, before taking the nontraditional route by heading to the Swiss league instead of spending a year in the WHL or college.

Matthews missed the 2015 draft cutoff by just a couple of days, uniquely positioning him to sign a pro contract overseas in his draft year rather than play another year of junior — he could get his residence permit authorized on his 18th birthday in September and participate in a close-to-full pro season. He would’ve likely slotted third behind McDavid and Eichel in 2015 despite his age disadvantage (it’s even been argued he would have been drafted before Eichel in that hypothetical scenario, for what it’s worth). That, combined with a full year of experience playing against men over in the Swiss league — where he finished as a candidate for league MVP — means his impact could be substantial right out of the gates next October.

No Leafs fan needs to be told about the value of an elite center and the difficulty involved in acquiring one anywhere but the top of the draft. Matthews, by all accounts, appears to be that “unicorn” center you can build around for 10-15 years.

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