Childhood & Early Life
Matthews was born on September 17, 1997, in San Ramon, California, US. He belongs to a family of athletes. His father, Brian Matthews, who is from California, played baseball in college. His mother, Ema, is from Mexico. Matthews has an elder sister, Alexandria, and a younger sister, Breyana. Their family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, when he was very young.
As a child, he often accompanied his parents to watch the local ‘Phoenix Coyotes’ games. This made him develop an interest in ice hockey. When he turned 5, he showed a marked inclination toward the game. As a child, he played both baseball and ice hockey, and with an accurate hand–eye co-ordination, he turned exceptionally good at baseball.
At the age of 12, he played in a spring hockey league. His team at the ‘Arizona Bobcats’ minor hockey program included the sons of former ice-hockey players. One of his teams was assembled by Claude Lemieux (former ‘Phoenix Coyotes’ player). Matthews was trained by Boris Dorozhenko, a former Ukrainian ice-hockey player who had earlier coached in Mexico. After moving to the US, Boris stayed with the Matthews family for a few years.
Matthews signed up for some online courses with the ‘University of Nebraska Omaha.’ While he played in Switzerland, his elder sister helped him with homework.
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In 2012, Matthews was drafted (by the ‘Everett Silvertips’) in the ‘WHL Bantam Draft,’ but he chose to play for the ‘US National U17’ team. His game attracted the attention of ice-hockey fans. The following year, he scored 55 goals, made 61 assists, and earned 116 points, playing for the ‘US National U18’ team. He finished first and broke Patrick Kane’s 2005–2006 ‘National Team Development Program’ record of 102 points.
During his second game with the ‘U-17 NTDP,’ in September 2013, he broke his femur after a knee-to-knee collision. He required surgery, but he was back by December 2013 and scored 12 goals and 33 points in 24 games. Later in the season, he played for the ‘U-18 NTDP,’ too.
In the ‘2014 IIHF World U18 Championship,’ he helped the American team win the gold. Similarly, in the ‘2015 IIHF World U18 Championship,’ his performance won the gold for the team. In May 2015, he was awarded the ‘USA Hockey Bob Johnson Award’ for excellence in international competitions. He was declared the ‘Most Valuable Player’ (MVP) of 2015 at the ‘World U18 Championship.’ He was also ‘IIHF’s ‘Best Forward,’ being the top scorer of the tournament. He was included in the ‘Media All-Star Team.’ He was also included in the 2015 roster, but he could not play due to a back injury.
He represented the US at the ‘2016 IIHF World Junior Championship’ in Helsinki and helped his team win the bronze. He was included in the US national men’s team later that year and played at the ‘2016 IIHF World Championship.’ He also played for ‘Team North America’ at the ‘2016 World Cup of Hockey.’ The team, however, did not win any medal.
Matthews missed the ‘2015 NHL Entry Draft’ eligibility by two days. Thus, instead of continuing with the ‘U18’ team, he decided to play professionally. In August 2015, he signed a contract with the ‘ZSC Lions’ to play in the ‘Swiss NLA.’ He made his ‘NLA’ debut in September 2015, against ‘HC Fribourg-Gottéron’ and scored his first ‘NLA’ goal in the same match. At the end of the 2015–2016 regular season, he was the second top-scorer for the ‘Lions’ (and the tenth in the ‘NLA’) and won the ‘NLA Rising Star Award.’ Later, he also received the ‘NLA Youngster of the Year Award,’ which is awarded to the best rookie of the league.
In June 2016, he was selected first overall by the ‘Toronto Maple Leafs’ in the ‘2016 NHL Draft.’ After Patrick Kane in 2007, he was the first American to be picked with the top selection. Matthews played his first match for the ‘Toronto Maple Leafs’ against the ‘Ottawa Senators,’ and in his ‘NHL’ debut match, he scored 4 goals, which was a record in the history of the modern ‘NHL’ games. The previous record was that of 5 goals scored in December 1917, in the first game in the history of the ‘NHL.’
During the ‘NHL Centennial Classic’ in December 2016, he scored the game-winning goal, and the ‘Maple Leafs’ won 5–4. Among his team players, he was the only one to be selected for the ‘2017 NHL All-Star Game.’
Matthews surpassed many ‘NHL’ records during that season. Earlier, Wendel Clark held the record of the highest number of goals in a season (34) by a ‘Maple Leaf’ rookie. Matthews broke that record by scoring his 35th goal, in March 2017. In April 2017, he broke two records: most points in a season and most goals by an American-born rookie, when he scored his 39th goal and 67th point. He completed the season with a total score of 40 goals. He was the fourth teenager in ‘NHL’ history to score the feat in the first season and the second top-scorer in the league. With more records covered in the season’s playoffs, he was presented with the ‘Calder Memorial Trophy,’ which is awarded to the league’s top rookie.
He was the first ‘NHL’ player to begin his career with the most consecutive games with goals. On December 9, 2017, he suffered a concussion when he collided with a player during a game against the ‘Pittsburgh Penguins.’ As a result, he had to miss the next six games.
Matthews was the only ‘Maple Leaf’ player to participate in the ‘2018 NHL All-Star Game.’ This was followed by a shoulder injury in February 2018, which rendered him inactive for the next 10 days. His performance helped the ‘Maple Leafs’ win 5–2 against the ‘Nashville Predators,’ in March 2018. His team qualified for the ‘Stanley Cup’ but later lost to the ‘Boston Bruins.’
Awards & Achievements
In the 2015–2016 season, he earned the ‘NLA Rising Star Award,’ the ‘NLA Media Most Improved Player,’ and the ‘NLA Youngster of the Year.’ He was also included in the ‘NLA Media All-Star Team.’
In 2015, he received the ‘Bob Johnson Award’ for excellence in international competition. In the ‘2015 IIHF World U18 Championship,’ he won the ‘MVP’ honor. He was also the scoring leader and part of the ‘Media All-Star Team’ in the same championship.
In December 2016, he was awarded the ‘NHL Rookie of the Month,’ and in 2017, he won the ‘Calder Memorial Trophy.’
He has also set many records in his career so far.