Posted by Greg Carter
When Auston Matthews scored a hat trick in his first NHL game, he became only the fifth player in NHL history to net 3 goals in a career debut. He also became the first Maple Leaf to accomplish this, which is pretty incredible for a team with the history of this original six team. Later in the game when Matthews proceeded to find the back of the net for the fourth time, you knew this would be a night that would have the hockey world talking.
It was little secret that Matthews would be chosen first in the 2016 NHL Draft, but as obvious as the choice seemed to be, the Matthews hype has been taken to an entirely new level after his opening night performance. Suddenly, everyone wants to know everything about this silky smooth forward from Arizona.
So what can youth hockey players learn from Matthews’ map to the NHL?
Skill Development. From an early age, Matthews focused on developing skills versus playing a bunch of games with all of the top teams in the area. He spent tons of hours playing small area games. He worked tirelessly on powerskating. He had the puck on his stick all the time learning to ‘stickhandle in a phone booth’. He focused on skill development and mastering the fundamental skills that would allow him to reach his full potential.
Work Ethic. Any coach will tell you that when you can combine exceptional skill with focus and drive, you have the recipe for a great hockey player. When Matthews learned a new skill he didn’t quit until he mastered it. Matthews’ work ethic is a shining example of what can happen when you have a mentality of not just learning a skill, but mastering a skill through repetition, commitment and hard work.
Shoot Pucks. At our hockey school we love to tell players that they can never shoot enough pucks. Matthews uses the skills he learned playing small area games to create time and space, which ultimately affords him the opportunities to get a lot of shots on goal. And not only is he getting shots on goal, but because he has a deadly shot, he has scored a lot of goals.
And in his first NHL game, he got 4.