Auston Matthews has big expectations resting on his shoulders. USATSI

As the NHL season begins Wednesday night, so does the Auston Matthews era for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His debut marks the first big step for a franchise away from their sizable teardown of an abysmal roster with worse results and into a new beginning.

Few expect the Maple Leafs to make drastic steps forward this year, but the roster they will ice in Ottawa Tuesday night is better than the one they closed out last season with. A lot of that has to do with the young players they've added through the draft or other means. Players like Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and recently-acquired goalie Frederik Andersen are some of the newer, younger arrivals that will hope to help Toronto turn the page.

But this rebuild found its centerpiece in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Matthews has been tabbed as the savior (or saviour in Toronto) with good reason. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound center is only the second No. 1 pick in the franchise's history. Wendel Clark, picked first in 1985, is the only other player who shares the distinction of Maple Leafs to have gone first overall.

If Matthews can deliver on the lofty expectations placed upon him and the hopes the franchise has pinned on him, he may even surpass ol' Wendel in Toronto popularity someday. That'd be saying something, too.

However, Matthews hasn't even played in a single regular-season game yet for the club. He has years before he can live up to his hype. But from what we've seen so far - his dominant draft season in the Swiss pro league, a starring role for Team USA at the World Championships and World Juniors, excelling alongside Connor McDavid at the World Cup - we can see why the expectations can't seem to get high enough for the 19-year-old.

Obviously players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, or Connor McDavid could have a bigger overall impact in terms of stardom and on-ice performance, but because of where he'll play and where he came from, Matthews is already one of the league's most important players.

Here are some of the reasons Matthews should have a big impact on the NHL:

1. He's already the most marketable player on the league's most important team

Say what you want about the Maple Leafs, but them being awful for as long as they have been is bad for the NHL. Located in Canada's most populous city, the Maple Leafs have one of the largest and most dedicated fan bases in the NHL. Deep playoff runs or even just relevance would go a long way to boosting the sluggish Canadian TV ratings, merchandise sales and everything else.

On top of this being the Maple Leafs' 100th year, Matthews allows Toronto to skip a few steps in terms of boosting interest. They don't have to be competitive right away because they already have the player that people want to watch. Right now, the interest in Matthews is borne out of curiosity and it's still the honeymoon phase. Soon, people will be watching him for the pure entertainment of it.

Speed, smarts, creativity and a devastating release that will fool many a goalie all should combine to help him have a productive rookie season. Even if the Maple Leafs are out of the playoff race, the Calder race will maintain everyone's attention.

While the Maple Leafs have seen plenty of talented players come through in recent years, few have had the marketability of Matthews. He still has to earn it a little bit, but it feels like Matthews is already the face of the franchise and should be for years to come. Should he deliver on that vast potential of his, he has a chance to become one of the league's biggest stars. When was the last time the Leafs had that kind of player?

2. Matthews is essentially an NHL creation

When the Coyotes landed in Arizona, perhaps many predicted the rocky road they have endured over the last 20 years. Ownership uncertainty, middling ticket sales and relocation rumors have dogged the franchise for years.

What few would have predicted is that the Coyotes would essentially put the stick in the hands of a player who very well could become one of the biggest stars of the game.

As the league celebrates 100 years starting in 2017, Matthews is one of its great success stories. His first exposure to hockey was at a Coyotes game with his uncle. From there he played youth hockey and was completely trained in Arizona until he was old enough to move on to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program at 16.

I don't want to discount the years of hard work Matthews put in to accomplish this, but he is a league creation. Many players are inspired by their local NHL teams, but considering all the consternation surrounding the Coyotes' status over the years, this is different.

When the first iteration of the Winnipeg Jets left for the desert, there was a lot of animosity towards the Coyotes from north of the border and it lingered for a long time. Twenty years later, the "Center of the Hockey Universe" will be gripped by a Mexican-American teenager from Arizona. It's funny how things work out sometimes and you better believe the league is never going to let you forget where he came from, nor should they.

3. The future face of American hockey?

If anyone watched Team USA's flameout at the World Cup, you might think the big picture for American hockey was looking pretty bleak. However, looking at Team North America, and particularly Matthews, should show that the future is still very bright.

The even better news for USA Hockey is that Matthews has competition when it comes to being their face in the coming years. Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames are all in the running, among others.

The fact that Matthews doesn't play on a U.S. based team definitely hurts his chances of becoming a more marketable talent in the U.S. That said, if the NHL manages to go back to the Olympics or changes the World Cup format next time aroud, Matthews is going to be playing on multiple U.S. national teams and can raise his profile that way south of the border.

Only seven Americans have been chosen with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. Among them, only Patrick Kane and Mike Modano went on to transcendent stardom among those players. Based on everything we know about Matthews, assuming he stays healthy, he has a much better chance at following in their footsteps than the less memorable of American top picks.

4. He's built for this

So many possibilities lay in front of Matthews. It's going to be up to him to seize them and it's not going to be easy. The pressure of playing in the market he's in with intense media and public scrutiny, and the desperation that city feels for a Stanley Cup as they close in on 50 years since their last one, have swallowed up players before.

However, from the last three years of covering and observing Matthews since he burst onto the scene with the U.S. national team program, there are few players better built to handle this opportunity than him.

There's a quiet confidence about Matthews, who carries himself in a very similar way as Connor McDavid. He approaches the game with an even keel, rarely rattled by whatever is thrown to him but his competitive fire is always evident. Matthews also projects that calmness off the ice.

He's never experienced anything like what he will go through in Toronto, but there are few people I could think of better equipped for what it will bring than he is. There will be periods of adversity, but the way Matthews has continually challenged himself will help him prepare to handle it.

Matthews' unprecedented path chosen for his draft season is one of the examples that show he's wired differently than most of his peers. He shook off the traditional choices of going to Canadian junior or U.S. college hockey, knowing they might not challenge him enough to prepare for his first pro season. Instead, he decided to cross the pond, so that he could play against men in Switzerland's top pro division. Then he goes over there and simply dominated, with a historic rate of production for a teenager in the Swiss NLA.

He was also the youngest player on Team USA at the Men's World Championship and was their best player en route to a surprising fourth-place finish. He forced Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman to pick him for Team North America for the World Cup and when he was there, he forced coach Todd McLellan to put him on the top line with Connor McDavid.

It doesn't matter whether the expectations are low or high, because he is motivated to shatter them. It's what he's been doing for years and it doesn't look like he has any plans to stop doing it now.