Based on his record-breaking year with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Auston Matthews is looking like a game-changer for the 2016 draft. But where he plays next season may be just as revolutionary.
Matthews, a big dominating center from Arizona, has been linked to the Everett Silvertips of the WHL as well as five NCAA schools – Boston College, Boston University, Denver, Michigan and North Dakota. But according to family advisors Pat Brisson and Judd Moldaver, the phenom is also fielding offers from the Swiss League.
“Auston and his family are currently processing every option between Everett, the NCAA and most recently Europe,” Brisson told me. “It should be resolved in a short matter of time.”
Matthews is an incredible talent with size, born in 1997. But his birthday is two days after the Sept. 15 deadline, so he's not eligible until the 2016 draft. Because he is so advanced, it makes sense that he would listed to offers to play against men in Switzerland.
The Swiss League is a fast circuit with talented players and a 50-game schedule with ample practice time. As an added bonus, travel is easy in the country since all the teams are just a few hours away from each other – players always return home to their own beds even after away games (which also explains why Switzerland has been a popular destination for NHLers during recent lockouts).
Officials from Everett and the five NCAA schools he is interested in are aware of the European option.
No major North American prospect has ever jumped over to Europe to play during his draft year, though I've often wondered if it would eventually happen. After all, young players today are more physically mature than in the past and they have often gone through pro-style training as teens. Since undrafted teens can't play in the AHL against men, Europe would seem to be an interesting experiment and great competition.
Matthews has been over in Europe a lot lately. He led Team USA to a world under-18 gold medal in Switzerland a couple weeks ago and joined the American world championship squad for an exhibition game before the worlds started proper in the Czech Republic. He smashed Patrick Kane's NTDP record for points in a season this year, ending up with 116 to Kane's 102. Needless to say, Matthews is the No. 1 prospect for the 2016 draft right now.
The WHL and NCAA are still very viable options for the youngster and there's certainly no guarantee he'll go play in Europe next season – but it is intriguing to think about.