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Matthews fighting off charge for top ranking in '16 Draft

Puljujarvi, Laine putting together impressive cases

by Mike G. Morreale @MikeMorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Auston Matthews, who many project to be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is playing for Zurich in Switzerland's top professional league this season. will follow his journey leading to the NHL Draft this season with a weekly update.

Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting, believes the gap between Auston Matthews and Finland forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine is smaller than some people might believe.

"The fact [Matthews] is doing so well as a center is an important fact when you try to compare him with the Finnish players, who each play right wing," Stubb told "All three are outstanding prospects and it is more or less impossible to put them in a 1-2-3 order."

Matthews didn't play a game for Zurich in Switzerland's top professional league this past week as the team is on international break.

All three players represented their country extremely well at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland. Puljujarvi was named most valuable player of the tournament after leading Finland to a gold medal with five goals and 17 points. Laine was named to the all-tournament team after scoring seven goals and 13 points.

Matthews (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) was also named to theall-tournament team after helping the United States to a bronze medal with seven goals. He finished tied for the team lead with Matthew Tkachuk with 11 points.

Matthews was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of international skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. Puljujarvi (6-3, 203) is No. 2 and Laine (6-4, 206) is No. 3. Tkachuk (6-1, 195), who plays for London in the Ontario Hockey League, is No. 1 on the midterm list of North American skaters.

Matthews next plays against Kloten on Tuesday. He has an 11-game point streak during which he has scored 11 goals and 19 points. His 23 goals in 31 games this season rank second among all players in the 13-team National League A division. Julien Sprunger of Fribourg-Gotteron is first with 24 goals in 40 games.

Puljujarvi has eight goals and 20 points in 41 games while averaging 14:56 of ice time for Karpat in the Finnish top division. Laine has 13 goals and 27 points in 35 games while averaging 17:10 for Tappara, also in the Finnish first division.

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