NEWS
09/18/2016 19:55 EDT | Updated 09/19/2017 01:12 EDT

Leafs' first overall pick Auston Matthews impresses for Team North America

TORONTO — It didn't take long for Auston Matthews to make a good first impression at Air Canada Centre.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' first overall draft pick had an assist on Team North America's first goal in a 4-1 victory over Finland on Sunday night at the World Cup of Hockey.

Matthews got the puck at the blue line, sidestepped a Rasmus Ristolainen hip-check attempt and fired a shot on goalie Pekka Rinne. Jack Eichel buried the rebound for a 1-0 lead at 5:03 of the first period.

"It's a pretty good feeling just to go out there and contribute," Matthews said.

The crowd roared when Matthews was introduced before the game. He signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs last July and has the team's long-suffering fanbase hopeful about the future.

The six-foot-two 210-pound American — who turned 19 on Saturday — played on a line with Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele.

They kept the Finnish players on their heels and often worked the puck like it was on a string.

"Very impressive," Scheifele said of Matthews. "He wouldn't have been picked first overall if he couldn't do this. He's a special player and it's exciting to see him grow already each and every game."

Matthews tied for the team lead with five shots and finished with just over 14 minutes of ice time. Head coach Todd McLellan said he had a "hell of a game."

"He belongs where he is right now," McLellan said. "He fits where he is. There's no, 'Hey let's babysit him and make sure that we're protecting him.' Let him play. He's got all the skills and he's playing the right way.

"You can't ask for any more of him."

Matthews is no stranger to international hockey.

He helped the United States win bronze at the 2015 world junior hockey championship and had nine points in 10 games at the 2016 world hockey championship.

Matthews played in the Swiss league last season and had 46 points in 36 games.

Team North America played its pre-tournament games in Quebec City, Montreal and Pittsburgh. Russia will provide the opposition on Monday night.

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