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‘They could both be driven’: Matthews, Eichel’s former coach from US U-18 team

They played together for a bit in the 2013-14 season.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not all that uncommon for top picks to be compared to one another, even across years. After all, extremely good players are extremely good players, and they tend to have at least a handful of traits in common.

We’re crossing draft years for this one, though. Jack Eichel was the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft; Auston Matthews was the first overall pick in 2016. About a year separates them in age, but of course they’d be familiar with each other: not just as young top players, but as a couple of Americans who played together on the U.S. national under-18 team in 2013-14.

That season, 16-year-old Eichel scored 45 points in 24 games. The 15-year-old Matthews was called up from the under-17 team, and he picked up eight points in 10 games.

Via Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts (#27), their coach that season, Danton Cole, had a bit of insight on them:

“The thing they had in common? They could both be driven,” he said last weekend. “They understood what it takes to be successful.” Eichel, asked about that, agreed. “I don’t mind being pushed. Neither did (Matthews).” Style-wise? “Similar,” Cole answered. “Eichel is more north-south, Matthews is more flamboyant. Both great players who wanted the puck and wanted to win.”

It’s always fun to watch top players playing alongside each other - I’d imagine it would be the same case even when they’re still developing.