Puljujarvi, Laine giving Matthews a run

Aaron Vickers2016 Draft Center, International Events0 Comments

Auston Matthews best not get too comfortable.

The consensus top pick for the 2016 NHL Draft since attention shifted away from Connor McDavid and the 2015 class, Matthews suddenly has some company.

And it comes in the form of a pair of Finns, with a pair of standout performances at the 2016 World Junior Championship.

“For me, and likely everyone else who witnessed these guy dominate in Helsinki,” started Future Considerations scouting director Dan Stewart, “Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine were both my guys who really made me think Matthews better not let up or go through a funk the second half of this season or he might risk being overtaken.”

Puljujarvi simply dominated the tournament, posting five goals and 17 assists in seven games to lead the tournament. He was the highest-scoring under-18 player at the tournament since Jaromir Jagr had 18 points in 1990.

Laine finished tied for first in goals with seven, and third in tournament scoring with 13 points.

“Puljujarvi is just a bit ahead of Laine for me at this time,” Stewart said. “Sure, Laine has the better shot, is a little more edgy physically and has shown an improved willingness to put forth an effort in his own zone, but Puljujarvi is a constant driver of the play wherever it is on the ice and just makes things happen.

“If you watched the scoring plays develop for Finland it was usually a play that Puljujarvi started or made possible with hard work or even with just smart positioning.”

Four of the six tournament all-stars were eligible for the 2016 draft, including Matthews, Laine, Olli Juolevi and Puljujarvi, the overall MVP.

Puljujarvi is the youngest player to ever receive the award.

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