Auston Matthews’ former head coach in Zurich, Marc Crawford, joined Game Day with Matt Cauz and Gareth Wheeler to discuss Matthews’ future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Transcript below.

On how often he’s asked to speak about Matthews:

It’s been fun speaking about Auston. He is a great kid. He is one of my favourite subjects to talk about. Definitely he is a talent and he’s going to be a great National Hockey League player. I like him more because he’s just a great person, he comes from a great family, he’s got his feet firmly on the ground. If he ends up going to Toronto, which in all likelihood he will and I’m quite confident he will, people in Toronto are going to love him.

When pressed to say “one bad thing” about him:

I can’t think of anything, truly. He’s a kid that doesn’t have flaws. He can work on a few things — obviously, every young kid can get better – especially his play without the puck. The thing with Auston is that he’s always got the puck, so he’s never really had to work on his game without it, but we’ve certainly paid attention to those details for him this year in Zurich.

Auston uses Jonathan Toews as a big example for himself, and he uses Patrick Kane. They have the same agent; they’ve trained together a number of times. If you look at the growth of Patrick Kane’s game – if you look at Patrick Kane coming into the league and being a dynamic offensively guy – and now the different layers that Patrick Kane has in his game, he doesn’t just beat you on the stop up and cut anymore. He can shoot through defencemen, he can take pucks wide, he’ll take pucks deep, he really challenges people on-on-one; he’s got a whole different dimension to his game than when he came in. I think that’s what Auston will do. Auston is always searching for the next level. What I like best about Auston is, even in drills, Auston tries to be first. He tries to be the best. He wants to do things well, and when you have that type of drive, to me that is what the great ones have. They have great vision, they have great drive, and that is what gives them such strong presence.

On comparisons:

I’ve said a lot of players I’d compare him to. He’s got elements of many players. Remember, he’s 18 years old. I had Anze Kopitar at 19, I had Jamie Benn at 19, and I had Joe Sakic as a 21 year old. I think Auston has got a lot of the qualities of those guys. At the same age, he looks very, very similar to Anze Kopitar with the way he drives the net, the way he protects the puck in offensive areas. He’s better offensively than Anze. He’s a shooter like Joe Sakic. His shot is similar to Jamie Benn’s. They shoot it with a lot of power, they stay on pucks the same way. Obviously, what you hope is that he adds an element of physicality to his game like Jamie Benn. You hope that he learns the defensive game the way that Anze Kopitar learned the defensive game. The hope is that the leadership that he has one day makes him like a shooting center that played well no matter who he played with and made people better, like Joe Sakic. I think Auston has that type of potential. He’s going to be an impact player right away; he’ll play in the top six right away, and he’ll have to figure it out as the year goes on. He’s a really good talent. He’s a kid that’s got his feet firmly planted on the ground. He’s got wonderful parents, great representation – all the things that you want, plus he’s six foot two. That makes you a pretty attractive package to a prospective team.

On the possibility of Matthews as the next captain of the Leafs:

That’s the stuff that sells your radio station, but the hockey people don’t think like that. They think, “okay, how are going to get him from being a top six forward to a top three forward?” And then, when he’s a top three forward, how does he get himself to be a premiere player, how does he get himself to be an elite player? I will tell you this: He has the capabilities to do those things, for sure, and he’s got the mindset to do those things. Auston is a kid that has great character and great depth of personality. Those kind of guys end up being the kind of guys who take leadership roles when they’re mature enough to handle them.

This guy wants experiences. He wants experiences, why? Because he knows they’re going to make him better. He very easily could’ve sat at home and not played for the US here and not risked his draft positioning, but that’s not how Auston is. Auston wants to play in a World Championships. He wants to play with NHLers. He wants to represent the US. I have no fear in my mind that he’s going to be able to handle the large marketplace here in Toronto if this is it. He’s a very, very intelligent kid. You watch how he handled the interviews the other night – he’s got it. He knows he can’t be too excited because it’s not a fait accompli yet. When you saw the end of the interview on TSN, you saw his smile. His smile really radiates. He’s got a captivating personality, and from that standpoint he’ll be a welcome addition not only to a hockey team – which is most important – but I also think he’ll be a welcomed addition to all involved. He really is an interesting kid. He’s got a great background, a great family, and when you put all those things together it’s the real package.

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