For those looking to parse the performance of projected No. 1 pick Auston Matthews at the World Championship, Saturday’s game gave viewers a lot more to work with than the previous blowout loss to Canada.
Team USA pummeled Belarus 6-3 with Matthews scoring his first two goals of the tournament. He also added an assist to lead all American skaters in points.
“We were just hungrier tonight,” Matthews told the Associated Press. “We took a little too many penalties but in the end we came out strong. That loss didn’t really sit too well in the locker room last night, so we were pretty motivated to come out here and make it a good one.”
The 18-year-old went scoreless in the 5-1 loss to Canada, recording three shots on goal in 16:56 minutes played.
But it was Saturday’s game that provided more to sift through, despite the clear difference in Team USA’s opponent.
Matthews scored once on the power play and skated for 19:30 of ice time, second among forwards only to Detroit Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin. Compared by some to Joe Sakic, Matthews scored two beautiful goals of quick wrist shots — Sakic’s go-to ability.
He stayed out of the box in an otherwise penalty-filled affair.
Meanwhile, to put his performance within the context of Patrik Laine’s — the presumptive second overall pick at the 2016 NHL draft — both young stars put up three points against Belarus.
Laine also recorded two goals and an assist in just 13:31 of ice time Friday.
Team USA’s next game is Monday, when they’ll face a stiff test against Finland. And we’ll be treated to a Laine-Matthews matchup.