NHL 22, the Maple Leafs’ playoff bust and Justin Bieber’s posse: A dialog with Auston Matthews


Auston Matthews performed it coy when requested what EA Sports activities recognized as his “X-Issue” in its new NHL 22 recreation.

“I’ll take a wild guess and say that I’ve received a great shot within the recreation. Perhaps some good goal-scoring talents,” mentioned the Toronto Maple Leafs middle, who final season led the NHL in goals for the primary time in his five-year profession.

Matthews is the quilt athlete for NHL 22, the second time he is made the entrance of the field for EA Sports activities after gracing the NHL 20 cowl. It is solely acceptable {that a} recreation centered on separating the superstars from the remainder of the league would function one in every of its elite younger abilities, one who simply scored 41 objectives in 52 video games.

“I feel it is a good cowl. Not many individuals get to be on the quilt of the online game. I take into account myself fairly fortunate,” he instructed ESPN. “I feel it is going to be a reasonably candy recreation.”

With NHL 22, EA Sports activities has made the league’s greatest gamers one thing greater than their capacity rankings. It created two completely different tiers of talents: “zone” and “famous person.” The “zone” talents are assigned to elite gamers that possess game-changing expertise; since they’re so highly effective throughout the recreation, just one is assigned to every eligible participant. The “famous person” talents are much less highly effective, and a number of ones are assigned to about 100 gamers within the recreation. They vary from enhanced photographs and passing talents to having the ability to sneak a puck by screens to the goaltender.

“We’re attempting to re-create superstars in a approach that is genuine to hockey,” mentioned NHL 22 producer Clement Kwong.

Matthews’ zone capacity is named “Shock & Awe.” It seeks to imitate his distinctive energy and accuracy when taking pictures out of a deke transfer, utilizing his curl and drag shot. Very similar to in the actual world, digital defenders should be extra conscious when Matthews is on the ice.

The identical goes for Edmonton Oilers star Leon Draisaitl‘s online game proxy, who has the “Tape To Tape” zone capacity, permitting him to make outstanding passes inside his imaginative and prescient. The distinctive attributes lengthen to defensive gamers as properly: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has the “Contortionist” zone capacity, through which he could make “unattainable” saves throughout the recreation.

“I simply image [Connor] McDavid on this recreation simply skating by everybody so simply. I am unable to wait to see that,” mentioned Matthews.

We spoke with the NHL 22 cowl athlete lately about gaming, each on Nintendo and on the chess board; one other Maple Leafs’ playoff catastrophe; and whether or not he is in Justin Bieber’s posse, or if it is the opposite approach round.

ESPN: You are somebody who’s at all times been concerned with methods to develop the NHL’s fan base. Are video video games one such approach? Have been you a kind of guys that, say, received into soccer taking part in FIFA?

Matthews: A bit bit. I’ve at all times performed video video games right here and there. I’ve by no means been a super-gamer type of man, however I do get pleasure from taking part in them quite a bit. [EA Sports’] NHL is one which I at all times loved taking part in, and seemed ahead to getting each Christmas. However I performed a bit FIFA infrequently, which supplies you the itch to play the game itself. However I do not know if the Leafs actually need me doing an excessive amount of of that, although. [Laughs].

I will deliver my Nintendo Swap on the highway, and so will a few the opposite guys. This 12 months I really received into taking part in chess on the airplane. Attempting to be taught that a bit bit. I prefer it quite a bit. Had an enormous chess bug this 12 months, for some cause.

ESPN: Have been you a “Queen’s Gambit” binger?

Matthews: [Laughs] Yeah, that is why. Watching that present. It is humorous how that works. So I received into that. You undergo these phases the place all you need to do is play video video games after which all you need to do is play chess. I performed a bit bit towards the boys. Me and [former Leafs goalie] Freddie Andersen frolicked quite a bit, so we performed towards one another fairly a bit. I would not play [middle Alex] Kerfoot as a result of I do know he went to Harvard, and clearly would beat me.

ESPN: Let me ask about your offseason. Have been you in Justin Bieber’s entourage or was he in your entourage at UFC 264?

Matthews: [Laughs] I used to be in his, for positive. However when he got here all the way down to Phoenix, I must say he was extra in mine. He got here down, he stayed with me, he frolicked at my home. My buddies have been there and stuff. I am unable to say sufficient nice issues about him. He is a Grade-A man and we had plenty of enjoyable.

ESPN: If you win the Rocket Richard Trophy, as you probably did final season for the primary time, the place do you retain it?

Matthews: I will maintain it at my mother and father’ home. They have a bit room with jerseys with all of the groups I performed on, with little awards. They have my sister’s golf stuff in there, too. I will go it alongside to them and so they can do what they need with it. Each time I’m going over there, it is like one thing new is in that room.

All of the stuff was in my dad’s workplace, after which one summer time I got here residence and my dad took all my stuff out of his workplace and determined to place his stuff in there as a substitute. He likes to hunt, so he put all of his searching stuff in there after which designated one other room in the home for my stuff. I allow them to try this. I assume it made them completely satisfied.

ESPN: Did you ever do the father-son bonding factor and go searching collectively?

Matthews: Yeah, I really used to go after I was a bit bit youthful. However I noticed some snakes a pair instances after I was on the market. That was it for me.

ESPN: That seems like a “rising up in Arizona” downside.

Matthews: It actually was.

ESPN: Relating the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second. It was clearly one other unsatisfying playoff end result. The Montreal Canadiens, the workforce that eradicated you in seven video games, went all the way in which to the Stanley Cup Closing. It was a collection that noticed you lose John Tavares to a scary injury. In comparison with earlier losses, was it any simpler to get previous this one, given the context?

Matthews: No, it was positively tougher, in that sense. It is robust … it is clearly actually irritating. It sucks proper now. Individuals have opinions and so they can say what they need, and rightfully so, however I actually consider within the workforce and I actually consider in all the gamers on the workforce — the core group particularly. I really consider that we’ll get it performed. We will be higher from our losses, and from the adversity that we confronted.

The one approach is ahead. [The playoff loss] sucked. There is not any different strategy to put it. Extraordinarily disappointing. Nevertheless it’ll simply really feel that a lot better after we ultimately get to the highest.

ESPN: Your normal supervisor, Kyle Dubas, has doubled down on that sentiment. He is mentioned that he would “wager the whole lot” on the core of the Leafs having the ability to work out methods to win a championship. If you hear your GM say that, what does that imply to you?

Matthews: I do not assume that is information to us. We all know that is how he feels. When he reiterates that, it offers us confidence shifting ahead. That is all you possibly can ask for: that your normal supervisor and all of your teammates actually consider in each other.

ESPN: Lastly, as a hockey participant and a style icon, would you like the quilt of a sports activities online game or the quilt of GQ?

Matthews: Oh, I’d take the quilt of the online game. I do not learn magazines too usually.

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