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Matthews likely to play in Europe before '16 NHL Draft

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

BUFFALO -- Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is leaning toward continuing his hockey career in Switzerland, agent Pat Brisson told NHL.com on Friday.

Brisson said playing for ZSC in Switzerland's top professional league or for the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League are the two destinations. Brisson said Matthews has ruled out going the NCAA route.

"It's been discussed and we have been exploring Europe and have narrowed it down to Switzerland and the WHL," Brisson said. "It's looking at the moment that the scale is leaning towards Europe." ZSC is coached by former NHL coach Marc Crawford.

Matthews is coming off a record-setting season with the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team. His 55 goals and 117 points broke records set by Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane (52 goals, 102 points) in 2005-06. Matthews also was named most valuable player and best forward while helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship last month.

"First and foremost, the priority is his development," Brisson said. "As it stands we were hoping to have a decision two weeks ago, but we are still not there 100 percent. And until we are at 100 percent we are not going to finalize it.

"In other words, the sooner the better for Auston because he wants to have his head clear and continue his summer training and get going."

Brisson said the college hockey route was eliminated since Matthews likely will play one more junior season before the 2016 draft.

"Auston could be in the NHL next year," Brisson said. "He would probably play one year somewhere, so the college route isn't a good idea. We're doing what we do as advisors and we have to listen to the pulse of our client and see where they're going. We just get the feeling that Auston, especially in the last couple of weeks, is more ready to narrow it down to either Europe or the WHL."

Matthews, born Sept. 17, 1997, missed the cutoff for the 2015 NHL Draft by two days. If he were eligible for the 2015 draft most scouts, including NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr, believe he would be among the top three selections, along with Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel.

"The reason we're exploring things outside the box is because he is so mature and so ready for it," Brisson said. "Part of what we do, and I've been doing it for 25 years, is understanding where players are in their development. Auston is a mature young player; he's 17 going on 25 years old. And part of the reason we're in this process is because he can handle all this. He's got a very strong opinion about what he can and can't do. He knows himself very well. He's an impressive young man, and coming from Scottsdale, Arizona, is an impressive story."

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