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Top prospect Matthews to decide on '15-16 team soon

by Mike G. Morreale /

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Center Auston Matthews, who many project will be the top pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, said Wednesday he likely will make his decision on where he will play this season after United States National Junior Evaluation Camp.

The camp, which will help determine the U.S. roster for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, runs through Saturday at Lake Placid Olympic Center's 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

Matthews (6-foot-2, 194 pounds), who represented his country at the 2015 WJC in Montreal and Toronto, spoke Wednesday after the U.S. won an exhibition game against Finland 5-4 in overtime.

"There's no (updated) news and I'm really just focused on this camp and wanting to continue to make an impression on the USA coaching staff," Matthews said. "A decision should be made shortly after this camp."

Matthews, who turns 18 on Sept. 17, has narrowed his decision to either playing for Zurich in the Swiss National League or Everett in the Western Hockey League.

Matthews won USA Hockey's Bob Johnson Award recognizing excellence in international hockey competition last season. He set records with the National Team Development Program for goals (55) and points (117) in a season, surpassing Patrick Kane's 52 goals and 102 points in 2005-06.

Matthews was asked about the pros and cons of playing overseas for former NHL coach Marc Crawford in Switzerland. Although Matthews wants to be the No. 1 pick at the 2016 draft, he said there are other factors in making his decision on where to play in 2015-16.

"It's a goal (to be chosen first overall), but honestly it's more of a goal to be NHL-ready," he said. "Coming into your draft year, there's a lot of hype and a lot of expectations. Honestly, I want to keep my world small and work my hardest.

"There are a lot of pros and cons (to playing in North American or Europe). I don't think there's any wrong way. Whether you play in the NCAA, major junior or play in Europe, it's a lot of pros and cons both ways."

Matthews played a huge role in the United States winning gold at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Switzerland; he scored a tournament-high 15 points and tied for the lead with eight goals in seven games. He was named tournament MVP and the championship's best forward.


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