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. NHL.com will follow his journey leading to the NHL Draft this season with a weekly update.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane spoke openly his feelings after learning Auston Matthews had shattered his offensive records for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program last season.
"Well, I don't think he broke my record for points in a season, he crushed it," Kane told NHL.com. "It would have been nice if he just beat me by one or two points, you know? But Auston is a player with a bright future ahead of him."
Matthews set records with the Under-18 NTDP for goals (55) and points (117) in a season in 2014-15, surpassing the 52 goals and 102 points in 2005-06 by Kane. Matthews, currently recovering from a back injury sustained Oct. 23 with the Zurich Lions in Switzerland's top professional league, was actually contacted by Kane via Twitter when he tied his scoring mark with the NTDP.
Kane was the last American-born player selected No. 1 in the NHL Draft, going to the Blackhawks in 2007. Now in his ninth season, the 26-year-old right wing has 576 points in 590 career regular-season games.
Kane and Matthews have a lot more in common than just being American-born players with record-breaking performances for the USNTDP, however. During the NHL work stoppage in 2012-13, Kane also played in Switzerland for EHC Biel, which competes in the same National League A as Zurich.
"I think it's a great league," Kane said. "I had a blast over there when I played and felt it really got me in good shape and kept my game up at a top level while playing against really good competition. I think it was a great decision for [Matthews] to do that. It seems like he was in between choices, but I think Switzerland is a great league and it seems like he's doing well over there.
|AUSTON MATTHEWS, Center
"We share the same agent and I know they've been very impressed with him too, so it's good to see another American kid doing well over there."
Would Kane like to see Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., become the first American-born player in nine years to go No. 1 in the draft?
"I hope so," Kane said. "It certainly seems like he's headed in the right direction."
Matthews, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's September players to watch list for the 2016 draft, was named a finalist for the Male Olympic Athlete of the Year by USA Hockey last week.
The winner will be announced during the Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Year, at the University of Pennsylvania's Houston Hall in Philadelphia on Dec. 10. Matthews played for the U.S. at the 2015 IIHF Word Junior Championship and is eligible to represent his country at the 2016 WJC in Finland.