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, Center |
|GP ||G ||A ||Pts ||Shots ||PIM ||+/- |
|26 ||19 ||13 ||32 ||90 ||4 ||+7 |
Auston Matthews, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Draft, has scored in four straight games since his return from 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left-shot center, who scored seven goals and 11 points in seven games to help the United States win a bronze medal at the WJC in Helsinki, Finland, has five goals, seven points, a plus-7 rating and a 33 percent shooting rate in the past four games for Zurich in Switzerland's top professional league.
"In my opinion, Matthews is the best player in the league, although it's not very clear and there might be other opinions," said NHL Central Scouting's Thomas Roost, who evaluates prospects in Switzerland and Germany. "Former NHL player Pierre-Marc Bouchard is close. Matthews' play is still on the same level as before or during the World Junior [Championship] and this is a very high level."
Matthews is tied for the lead in National League A with 19 goals and is second with a 1.20 points-per game average. He has played 26 games, 13 fewer than Cory Conacher of SC Bern and seven fewer than Julien Sprunger of Fribourg-Gotteron. Conacher and Sprunger are tied with Matthews with 19 goals apiece.
"He's extremely strong on the puck and wins the battles along the walls and in the corners," Roost said.
"He's a clever shooter, uses the defenseman to cover his shot-strategy, and puts his body to one side of the defenseman and releases his shot to the other."
Bouchard, a first-round (No. 8) pick by the Minnesota Wild in the 2002 NHL Draft, played 11 seasons in the NHL with the Wild and New York Islanders. He had 110 goals and 356 points in 593 NHL games. The 31-year-old forward leads Switzerland's National League A with 50 points (10 goals, 40 assists) and a 1.43 points-per game average in 35 games.
"If our league kept statistics for points-per 60 minutes played, Matthews would lead it," Roost said. "There's no sign of him fading away and he still plays on a consistent, very high level.
"I should add that I have also been impressed with the Finnish duo of Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi this year and I think this will be a tight race until the end but Matthews as the front-runner."
Matthews scored the game-winner when he went top shelf on the opposing goaltender off a rebound at the right post with 5:06 remaining in the third period in a 2-1 win against Kloten on Jan. 12.