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.
Auston Matthews, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Draft, made a memorable return to the Zurich lineup Friday when he scored two goals, had four shots on goal and was a plus-2 in a 7-0 victory against SCL.
Matthews had missed the past four games while helping the United States win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. He led the U.S. with seven goals, one shy of the U.S. record for a single WJC. He also tied for the team lead with 11 points and led all forwards with 26 shots on goal at the 11-day tournament in Helsinki, Finland.
|AUSTON MATTHEWS, Center
Matthews told NHL Network after an 8-3 win against Sweden in the bronze-medal game that the experience at his second WJC was great.
"I got to meet a lot of new people and build a couple new friendships so it was pretty cool. And to walk away with the bronze medal as well is kind of a little bit of a cherry on top," he said.
When asked if the NHL draft is now on his radar, he shook his head.
"Not too much," he said. "I'm just keeping my world small and focusing on getting better each day."
Matthews has 16 goals, 27 points and a plus-2 rating in 23 games for Zurich this season. He also has a 20.51 shooting percentage on 78 shots. Former NHL player Cory Conacher, who played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders, leads National League A, Switzerland's top league, with 19 goals in 37 games. Matthews is three goals behind despite playing 14 fewer games.
Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan has taken a special interest in how well Matthews is playing this season. Matthews, who was born and raised in Scottsdale, Ariz., grew up a Coyotes fan. Doan told NHL Network that Matthews has skated with the Coyotes the past two summers.
"I think it's one of the big things having a team in Arizona and have kids to dream of reaching the NHL," Doan said. "I've gotten to know Auston and his family and it's great to see him rise to where he is now. He is legit. But we were talking about him last year and he wasn't even eligible for the NHL draft.
"The fact the Coyotes have been here for 20 years, that's great for our sport and a big reason why teams are doing well in the south is because they are here longer and longer and you're beginning to see those grassroots programs finally having a significant impact."