John Tortorella said it in September, after his U.S. team went 0-3 in group play (including a one-sided loss to host Canada) at the World Cup of Hockey. The American coach told reporters that Team USA was looking at a fantastic future thanks to a group of young players who were ready to join the national program.
Torts was referring to players like Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Johnny Gaudreau, plus Brandon Saad and Seth Jones from Tortorella’s Blue Jackets, who took the ice for Team North America in the World Cup. That U.S./Canada, 23-and-under mashup was a crowd favorite in Toronto. Maple Leafs savior Matthews had much to do with that, but it was also a really good club.
There were many factors which led the Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup playoff appearance last season after finishing dead last in the NHL two years ago, but the most impactful was the contribution of their rookie class, headed, of course, by 2017 Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews.
Authentic Mens Lane Taylor Jersey Matthews, the first Toronto player to win the Calder in 51 years, led the NHL in rookie scoring and broke club rookie records for points (69) and goals (40). But the 19-year-old center was by no means the only first-year pro to have a significant impact with the Leafs.
Limited Youth Rhett Ellison Jersey Fast forward to Thursday night, when another U.S. team was playing against host Canada, this time in the final of the World Junior Championships in Montreal. This was the next wave of talent behind Eichel, Matthews, et. al getting its shot on an international stage.