The Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews loved EA Sports’ NHL games as a kid. Now he’s on the cover.

Toronto Maple Leafs heart Auston Matthews. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Growing up in Arizona, Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews spent loads of time taking part in EA Sports’ NHL online game collection. Soon, the 21-year-old be on the cowl of the recreation’s subsequent version, NHL 20, which will probably be out there on Sept. 13.

The No. 1 general decide in the 2016 NHL Draft is a three-time all-star. Matthews has appeared in the playoffs every of his three seasons, however his Maple Leafs have been knocked out in the first spherical annually. It’s a comparatively large offseason in Toronto, not simply because the Toronto Raptors captured the NBA title. Matthews’s teammate, Mitch Marner, reached restricted free company and is anticipated to command a large new contract. The Maple Leafs personal Marner’s negotiating rights, but it surely might be a comparatively lengthy contract tussle.

Matthews, in Las Vegas for this yr’s NHL Awards, spoke to The Washington Post in a telephone interview on Wednesday about a number of matters, together with the state of the Leafs and his ideas on being the cowl star of online game he’s been taking part in since his childhood.

Did you play the EA NHL recreation rising up, and the way conscious had been you of who was on the cowl yearly?

I performed it fairly a bit and nonetheless play it at present. Every Christmas, I knew I might get the new NHL recreation. I all the time seemed ahead to it. Considering the previous guys on the cowl, it’s fairly particular firm, a fairly cool feeling, a fairly cool honor.

Did your dad and mom have the recreation below your Christmas tree?

My dad and mom tried to cover it in the tree, however I knew it was coming yearly. I might attempt to discover the factor that’s six inches by 5 inches, with the distinct cowl, each single Christmas. I all the time needed it earlier, however they’d make me wait till Christmas earlier than I bought the recreation. I all the time was trying ahead to getting it.

What was your response once you came upon you would be on the cowl for NHL 20? How’d you discover out?

My agent known as and introduced it up. He was fairly nonchalant about it. He requested, “What do you think about this?” I believed it’d be fairly superior. It’d be a no-brainer being on the cowl. It’s an honor.

How typically do you play now? Is there one thing of a online game tradition in the NHL?

We have a younger group, so a lot of us play Fortnite, NHL, Call of Duty. We cycle by games. So many younger guys play video games. We all play video games. I performed fairly a little bit of NHL rising up, and I nonetheless play it fairly a bit. My mates from dwelling — all people is in the video games. You might play for hours.

Switching gears a little, how acquainted are you with Jack Hughes, and what recommendation would you will have for a fellow younger American heart who might be picked first general?

I’ve met him a few instances over the final couple of years. He’s a good child, one other American man who might go No. 1. It’s superior. For recommendation, I’d inform him to get pleasure from himself. The complete course of, getting drafted as a high decide, it’s disturbing. There’s a lot going on. You have to understand the place you’re in. Not many individuals get to expertise that. I might say to actually get pleasure from the alternative he has. To actually get pleasure from it, as a result of it flies by. It seems like yesterday I used to be at the draft.

What was it like for you to see Toronto’s response to the Raptors winning?

It was amazing. The night they won it, the city was on fire. Toronto is just a passionate sports city in general. In Canada, hockey is the dominant thing. So I think you just imagine what it would be like if we were to accomplish our goal, winning the Stanley Cup. I think it gives you extra motivation seeing them accomplish that in their respective sport.

What do you think it’ll take for the Maple Leafs to break through?

This year left a sour taste in all of our mouths. Three years in a row, we were knocked out in the first round. We lost to the team that went to the Stanley Cup finals. It leaves you feeling what could have been. We got a taste of that, and how hard it is to advance out of the first round. It’s a good learning experience for us to put into reality that to get to the top, it’s quite a feat.

Mitch Marner has a big summer ahead. How much does he mean to the team, and how anxious are you to see him re-signed?

He means a lot to the team. It’s something that will get done hopefully soon. There’s a business side of the game. That’s the way it is. I think everybody here is confident something will get down soon and he’ll be in a Maple Leafs uniform this season.

Is there a balance for you in wanting to see the team together while also wanting to see a friend like Marner financially maximize on his opportunity?

Yeah. It’s the whole business part of the thing. We want to do what’s best for us. Our core, you look at the players we have, how young we still are, and he’s a big part of that — for us to get to that next level.

There was a lot of talk about officiating and video replay this postseason. Where do you stand on that? More replay? None at all? Or is it good as is?

There should be something different. It’s not good as is. There’s been a lot of controversy. I’m not sure how to fix that. It’s definitely something to be looked at closely.

Read more on the NHL:

After decades of waiting, St. Louis celebrates with the Blues at Stanley Cup parade

Capitals trade Matt Niskanen to Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas

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