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Matthews impresses in Zurich, overcomes adversity

by Mike G. Morreale

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.

It's rare to see any teenager generate immediate success as a rookie playing with and against men on a professional hockey team.

Perhaps that is what makes American-born center Auston Matthews, 18, so unique at this stage in his career. Not only is he having success, but he's doing it 5,700-plus miles away from his Scottsdale, Ariz. home for the Zurich Lions in Switzerland's top professional league.

Zurich, Switzerland
GP G A Pts Shots PIM +/-
14 10 6 16 46 2 +2

Matthews was named to United States for the Deutschland Cup in Germany from Nov. 6-8. It marked the first time a player competing in his draft-eligible season was chosen for the U.S. All 21 players selected are playing in European elite leagues in Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Russia and Germany.

In 14 games Matthews leads the 12-team National League A with 10 goals.

Matthews gave fans a bit of a scare on Friday in a 3-1 loss to Fribourg-Gotteron when he went hard into the boards during the game and missed his next two shifts, according to NHL Central Scouting's Thomas Roost, who evaluates prospects in Switzerland and Germany.

"It was during a puck battle when he did fall head-first into the wall," Roost said. "He felt some pain and didn't show up for the next shift. But he did come back and also played on Sunday."

Matthews had one assist and one shot on goal Sunday in a 6-3 victory against the SCL Tigers.

Roost told there was no official word about how Matthews felt after the game Friday, but the most important thing was he returned to the lineup for the next game.

"When he has the puck he definitely is already the best player in the league," Roost said. "His puck-moving is top-notch. His difficult deflections and one-touch passes are high-end. He has great vision, can accelerate or slow down the plays and his skating is very good."

Roost said that Matthews has found chemistry playing with former NHL player Robert Nilsson. Nilsson, 30, selected 15th in the 2003 draft by the New York Islanders, spent five seasons in the NHL with the Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. He has spent the past two seasons playing for Zurich.

"Matthews and Nilsson sometimes go tic-tac-toe to each other with ease that you wonder what the opposition might be thinking," Roost said. "It's rare that young players like Matthews are so consistent with their performances, but he has been. Not only is he consistent, but he's doing it at a high level."


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