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Auston Matthews: There and back again, a top draft pick's tale

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From Buffalo to San Jose and back again, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and a few friends went on a quest.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So, Auston how has June been so far? All six days of it. Auston would likely say, "It's been good." He's said that a lot in past few days. He's been asked so many questions in such a short time, he likely just says that to everyone now.

Buffalo

June began in Buffalo, the same place it will end for Auston. He hit the NHL Scouting Combine as the focus of so much attention, he had to be the happiest man alive when Patrik Laine turned out to be a quote machine.

The Combine is part theatre, part physical evaluation and part job interview.

Part psychological evaluation. Do you feel motivated, or did you just make a fist? That's one hell of a personality test disguised as a gruelling bike ride.

Matthews said in several interviews that the Wingate—the bike test with Mr. Yelly Guy—was the hardest part of the Combine. But he also described his interview with the Leafs vividly to Craig Custance as intense and intimidating, agreeing with Laine's assessment. (Listen to him also recount his great fear of snakes.)

Once the Combine was over, Matthews and the rest of the fellowship of top draft picks, minus Jesse Puljujärvi, headed into the west.

San Jose

The Finnish media reported that Laine stopped off in Las Vegas on the way to San Jose where he discovered he wasn't in Europe anymore and the age of majority kept his money in his wallet. He also got in a practice on Sunday.

The gang all showed up for game four of the Stanley Cup Finals and they met some Sharks, posed for pictures, talked to reporters and took part in TSN's quiz panel.

The desire to make Laine and Matthews bitter rivals kept failing, no matter how often people tried, and no matter how many times Laine kept freely expressing his pride in his own accomplishments and abilities.

The culmination of the draft pick quest every year is a seat on Coach's Corner, clustered around Ron McLean and Don Cherry while the young hopefuls take turns speaking about something or other briefly. Last year Jack Eichel stole the show with a present for Cherry.

This year the group got to talk about goals they'd scored and pick their favourite NHL player.

It was stilted and tame like it usually is, with a little reality cracking through the media personae: Matthews describing his whole family seeing his first goal in Zurich, and Laine genuinely enjoying watching Matthew Tkachuk's goal that won the Memorial Cup. The real highlight is the fleeting moment between Laine and Matthews after Tkachuk enthused over Corey Perry.

And now the group breaks up, each going off to their own homes for a few weeks. Laine has said he plans to practice, so apparently you can't keep him off the ice.

They come back to Buffalo on June 24 where Matthews and Laine will pull blue jerseys over their heads and then answer questions for hours about how they feel. The drama will be provided by other characters because the heros always succeed on their quests. That's never in doubt.